23 November 2018
On 28 November, Assembly Members will debate the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee’s report Selling Wales to the World.
Following the Brexit referendum, the First Minister, in an article in the Times newspaper, announced that he had “made it an immediate priority for the Welsh Government to get out and sell Wales to the world like never before”.
In light of that remark, the Committee decided to launch an inquiry to explore how the Welsh Government has been selling Wales to the world. The inquiry focused on three areas: trade, tourism, and skills/training, and sought to measure success to date, and identify areas for improvement.
A public consultation was carried out over the summer of 2017 and the Committee then took oral evidence at its meetings throughout September and October 2017.
On 5 October 2017, the Committee held a series of meetings in Brussels with representatives from, among others, the British Embassy, the Canadian Embassy, the Swiss Embassy, Enterprise Ireland, Scotland Europa and New Zealand’s Mission to the EU and NATO
The Committee recognised that the task of raising the profile of a small country like Wales on the global stage can be a huge challenge. Highlighting the task at hand, Canadian diplomats and trade officials told the Committee (in October 2017) that until recently they had not really heard of Wales.
Conversely, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates AM, told the Committee “we’re in a really strong place right now, right across the portfolio”. He told the Committee that Wales is now “the centre of adventure tourism in Europe” with visitor numbers at a record high. He cited levels of investments into Wales also reaching record highs in recent years as “proof of Wales’ reputation as a great place to do business and evidence that our business-friendly approach is paying dividends”.
The British Council also had a positive message for the Committee, saying “our higher education and vocational education and training sectors are deeply connected internationally”.
However, throughout the inquiry, the Committee heard from stakeholders who wanted better engagement with the Welsh Government’s various international activities, while, overall, the Committee felt that more could be done to sell Wales to the world in a strategic and joined up way.
What did the Committee recommend?
In total the Committee made 14 recommendations, 13 of which were accepted by the Welsh Government, with recommendation number four being accepted ‘in principle’. The recommendations included:
- Recommendation 1. The Welsh Government should give serious consideration to creating a specific cabinet post to combine responsibilities for international trade and Brexit implementation, in order to provide further focus to this key area and regular and structured opportunities for scrutiny.
- Recommendation 2. The Welsh government should develop an export growth strategy to prepare companies for international markets and increase the number of companies exporting.
- Recommendation 4. The Cabinet Secretary should publish a detailed remit for the overseas offices, and report to the Assembly annually on the delivery against the business plan for each office. (Accepted in Principle)
- Recommendation 5. The remit of the overseas offices should be communicated to businesses and stakeholders to enable dialogue between them and maximise use of the offices. Further overseas offices should be focused on markets with high potential.
- Recommendation 6. The Welsh Government should consider how to enable a wider range of businesses in Wales to access the branding, while retaining control of standards.
- Recommendation 9. The Welsh Government should raise awareness of the support available to small and micro businesses and third sector providers to collaborate and develop bookable tourism packages in their area.
- Recommendation 11. The Welsh Government should continue to lobby the UK Government on the devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Wales.
- Recommendation 12. The Welsh Government should review its plans to support the industry with workforce development in tourism, in the context of Brexit.
- Recommendation 14. The Welsh Government should support people wishing to live, work or study abroad. If Wales can no longer benefit from Erasmus+ or Horizon Europe (the successor programme to Horizon 2020), then alternative programmes within and outside the EU should be considered.
Article by Ben Stokes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service