Optimism, in short, was a characteristic of the day. “It feels like progress is being made. There is not the same sense of angry frustration as was [at the EEF National Conference] last year,” said Craig Naylor managing director of precision tooling company NTR.
The opening presentation from Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, showed that such optimism is not without reason. He carefully laid out evidence to show that the global economic outlook is not as dire as most believe.
Mr O’Neill, who coined the term BRIC in reference to the world’s fastest growing economies, clarified the business imperative of becoming involved in those markets. He also defined a global economic rebalancing of power between the US “which used to consume too much and produced to little,” and China “which used to consume too little and produce too much.” Analysing data on national retail sales and consumer spending shows that we are moving towards an equilibrium says O’Neill.
Glossing over concern in some quarters that China’s growth is slowing, O’Neill stated some stunning facts about its continued expansion – between 2010 and 2012 China’s growth equalled the entire value of India’s economy, worth over $4 trillion.
Countering naysayers who moan that the UK still exports more to Ireland than it does to the lucrative BRIC markets, Mr O’Neill stated that “this is no longer true”. Canny firms are changing the balance and O’Neill revealed that UK exports to the eurozone have in fact declined by 10% since 2000. In the meantime, UK exports to the BRICs have grown to account for 8% of what Britain sends overseas and Goldman Sachs’ guru says this should reach 17% by the end of the decade.
The message to those with a thirst for growth was this – grab your competitive advantage while you can.