The UK belongs to the G7 group of the world's leading industrial
nations. Since the end of World War II, the UK has followed the
trend away from industrial production towards service industries,
which now account for about three-quarters of national income.
The transition has not been easy, and although the UK is not unique
in this respect - many Western European economies have undergone
a similar process during the past 20 years - a worse situation might
have occurred without the revenues from North Sea oil. The traditionally
strong agricultural sector has suffered a number of serious setbacks,
largely the result of dubious practices which appear to have been
rife throughout British agriculture. These undoubtedly contributed
to two costly outbreaks of disease (BSE and foot-and-mouth) which
have caused havoc in the industry and the loss of billions of pounds
in export income.
Engineering (especially of military products), electronics, chemicals,
construction and textiles are the main components of the industrial
sector. Among service industries, tourism, retails, media, financial
services, telecommunications and computer services are the most
important and have grown rapidly, while heavy industries have suffered
The Conservative government of the 1980s and early 1990s was the
first in Western Europe to dismantle the mixed economy of state
and private owned industries that had become the standard model
for members of the EU. A number of former state-owned industries
including telecommunications, oil, gas and electricity, were sold
to private shareholders, while the Government imposed stronger fiscal
controls and enacted pro-business legislation. Controls on the movement
of capital and on trade were removed. The model has now been adopted
throughout both the industrialised and developing worlds; it has
been maintained and then further extended by the Labour administration
which took office in 1997.
Britain's economic performance in the past few years has been reasonable,
although some cracks are beginning to show as the government has
to plan for a much higher level of borrowing than anticipated. A
slump in manufacturing industry has pushed unemployment to 1.5 million
(5.2 per cent of the workforce). Both GDP growth (2.1 per cent)
and inflation (1.8 per cent) are below the EU averages. The UK's
foreign economic relations are now dominated by the EU (which accounts
for 70 per cent of all UK trade), although there are important trade
links with the USA, the Far East and with members of the Commonwealth.
Europe nonetheless, dominates the economic agenda and the issues
facing present and future governments is the extent to which they
are willing to integrate into the European economy. The focus now
is whether Britain should adopt the single European currency, the
Euro. Although the economy has met the necessary criteria, the Government
chose not to join when the currency was introduced in 1999. The
Government has since remained on the fence; while many business
and political leaders favour membership, there is huge opposition
in the country at large. The conclusion of this debate may be decisive
to Britain's economic future.
Businesspeople are generally expected to dress smartly (suits and
ties). Appointments are made and the exchange of business cards
is customary. A knowledge of English is needed.
Monday-Friday 09:00/09:30-17:00/17:30 hrs.
The following organisation can offer advice: The British
Chambers of Commerce, 65 Petty France, London SW1H 9EU (telephone:
(020) 7654 5800; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Wales Tourist Board/Bwrdd Croeso Cymru publishes brochures on
conferences and incentives as well as a group directory. For more
information contact the Business Travel Department, Wales Tourist
Board, 10th Floor, Brunel House, 2 Fitzalan Road, Cardiff, CF2 0UY
(telephone: (02920) 499 909; fax: (02920) 485 031).