Foreign Office Head visits Midlands to help further region’s interests abroad

The Head of the Foreign office will visit the Midlands this week to talk to people and organisations in the region who work closely with the department and its partners to further UK interests and values overseas.

Simon Fraser, the Permanent Under Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, will meet with local business leaders to discuss how to make the region a top choice for foreign investors before visiting a key example in Jaguar Land Rover at its plant in Solihull. He will then travel to Leicester to see members of Reunite, a charity that helps victims of parental child abduction before meeting representatives of the Somali community and students at the University of Birmingham.

Mr Fraser will start his visit by meeting key local businesses and international companies investing in the region at an event hosted by Business Birmingham, the city’s inward investment programme. The discussion is set to explore how Birmingham can work with government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to further boost its profile as a business destination and attract foreign investment.

Birmingham attracted more inward investment than any other regional city in the UK in 2011. In the last year Business Birmingham has helped create 2200 jobs. In the last three years the city has attracted more foreign direct investment capital expenditure (£1.7bn) and created more jobs (5,764) than any core city outside London.

Simon Fraser commented: “In the current economic climate it is important for the Foreign Office, its overseas posts and partners at UK Trade & Investment, to promote the UK as a key investment location for businesses looking for a European base. Birmingham has done much boost its profile and showcase its potential internationally. We are keen to now build on this and support the work being done to bring further investment to the region.”

Neil Rami, Head of Business Birmingham, said: “Birmingham has raised it game in how it promotes itself as a global business location and this is beginning to show through in our results. However, cities across the globe now have to compete harder than ever to bring in new investment. The city’s business community needs to work together to ensure that government – including the Foreign Office and crucially, its overseas posts, are fully briefed on what Birmingham can offer. This is what will help us put Birmingham at the top of decision makers’ location lists.

“Simon’s visit is an opportunity for Birmingham to engage senior government officials – who have real influence in the city’s target markets – on its potential to be a leading global business location.”

Following the breakfast, Mr Fraser will visit Jaguar Land Rover, which as part of the Tata group is a major investor, employing over 18,000 in the region. Mr Fraser will take the opportunity to explore the company’s commitment to the region and further strengthen its relationship with government. The visit will also consider how the Foreign Office’s overseas posts can support Jaguar Land Rover’s sustained development.

The visit will then move on to Leicester, where the Secretary will visit Reunite – a leading UK charity that specialises in the prevention and resolution of international parental child abduction. The charity works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s consular teams to find some of the most vulnerable British citizens and bring them home.

Mr Fraser will then meet with representatives of the Somali community in Birmingham to discuss the outcomes of the Foreign Secretary’s recent conference on Somalia.

The Secretary will end his visit at the University of Birmingham where the Secretary will meet with Student Ambassadors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who help spread the message about safe travel abroad. Mr Fraser will also meet regional Chevening Scholars – promising individuals from around the world who, sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are studying in and learning about the UK. Finally, he will deliver a lecture to students at the University, allowing them a rare insight into the heart of UK foreign policy.

Mr Fraser said:  “I’m delighted to be able to meet such a broad range of people and organisations in the Midlands. It is important for me, as Head of the Foreign Office, to reach out to people across the country who are working hard to promote the UK’s interests and values.  I’m looking forward to talking about how our teams in London and in our Embassies and High Commissions can do more to support their work on the prosperity, security and the welfare of British citizens abroad.”

Doug Mahoney, Regional Director, UK Trade & Investment West Midlands, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Simon Fraser to the region. The visit will give him the chance to find out at first hand how local businesses are meeting the challenges of trading globally. Birmingham has a wealth of opportunities to offer investors and UKTI is working with partners such as Business Birmingham to maximise those opportunities.”