WE live in a rapidly changing world, one where globalisation seems to have shrunk the planet, while at the same time offering ever-expanding opportunities.
Our business partners no longer have to be neighbours – they can be anyone, anywhere.
Equally, competitors and rivals can be found on every continent and every country.
The trick is to maximise the rewards and minimise the risks of the new global economy – and I am determined that this government will help Scottish businesses do exactly that.
I’ve gathered together experts from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), with the intention of flagging up the multi-billion pound potential of the MINT countries – and urge Scottish firms of all sizes to win their fair share – in fact, more than their fair share, if possible - of these important new markets.
MINT is the acronym for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, the latest wave of countries championed by the former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill.
Jim, who is supporting today’s event, coined the term BRIC to describe Brazil, Russia, India and China, the nations he identified as being the vibrant new economies with which forward-looking firms would seek to do business.
That was more than a decade ago. Now, he believes the MINT countries also have exciting potential for growth – and that’s why I am very keen to make Scottish firms aware of the potential opportunities out there – and the help that is available to them from the UK Government.
UKTI is the British Government’s trade and investment arm. It has a network of advisers in more than 100 countries, an operation envied by many of our international competitors, who have nowhere near the same global footprint.
Compare it to Ireland, for example. A country of 4.5 million people receives fantastic representation from Enterprise Ireland – but this representation is only spread over 30 countries.
Without wishing to labour the point, it does suggest what might be lost to Scottish business should the SNP be successful in their attempt to break up the UK.
For me, UKTI’s reach really crystallises what is currently available; the expertise of its staff, both in the UK and around the world, whose knowledge is placed at the disposal of British firms of all sizes as they strive to seek out the new markets which will provide exports, create new jobs and safeguard existing ones.
Put simply, there is nothing quite like it.
UKTI has identified a series of what it describes as High Value Opportunities in each of the MINT countries – in Mexico, for example, you have the Veracruz port expansion. Rail and infrastructure projects are being planned for Indonesia. Nigeria continues to exploit its oil and gas reserves and the Turkish government are developing the airport at Istanbul.
But while all are very different countries, they do have two things in common.
One is that although they are exciting markets, all four have complex political and social issues.
But again, UKTI can help, sharing wisdom and knowledge built up over decades with you so you can maximise the do’s and minimise the don’ts of doing business with the MINTs.
The other common thread is that they have young, growing populations who are impatient as individuals and as nations to enjoy the rewards their hard work and entrepreneurship deserve.
So, whatever size your business, whatever sector you’re in, UKTI and the UK Government are ready, willing and able to help you make the most of the MINTs.
• Alistair Carmichael is Secretary of State for Scotland.