Sometimes it helps to know that you are not in it alone — whether “you” is an individual or a nation.
During last week’s Colorado Springs World Affairs Council luncheon at The Broadmoor, attendees heard firsthand that we’re not the only nation that’s in a recession.
But the prevailing mood was anything but grim.
Brent Talbot, vice president of programs for the World Affairs Council, said that everyone would enjoy the presentation — because a study said that during a financial or economic speech, one-third of the audience thinks of past romantic encounters, while another third thinks of future romantic encounters. (And, presumably, the other third actually wants to hear the speech.)
Of course, the audience found this particular study rather amusing, shall we say.
Especially when keynote speaker, Sir Alan Collins, British Consul-General in New York and director-general of Trade & Investment USA, continued the hilarity when he reached the podium.
“I didn’t know I was coming to Colorado Springs to get lucky,” he said.
After the laughter quieted, Sir Alan spoke about similarities in economic conditions between the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We’ve been in exactly the same boat as you’ve been in the U.S.,” he said. “The economy is a global problem — it’s not isolated.”
But the trade partnership between the United Kingdom and the United States is the biggest in the world, and “Britain is the place in which and with which to do business,” Sir Alan said. “In Britain, we’ve had to take a range of measures to help families and businesses get through the current difficulties.”
“We’re buying our own government bonds and giving the British economy a shot in the arm by cutting taxes and helping homeowners,” he said. “We’re doing whatever it takes to get banks loaning again.”
Do you feel better, already? This sounds eerily familiar — or perhaps comfortingly familiar — to me.
For instance, there’s been a reduction in the U.K.’s “value-added tax” (a lovely euphemism, I might add, for what is known in the United States as a “sales tax”), from 17.5 percent to 15 percent.
The government is trying to ensure that young people can get into the housing market, he said. But Britain has a housing deficit — whereas America has an “excess” of homes.
Nonetheless, Britain had “the same problems — perhaps to a different degree — with housing as in the U.S,” Sir Alan said. “And, the government essentially owns the banks — but we have no intention of having this situation become permanent.”
But there’s been a “fairly dramatic” drop in the British pound relative to the U.S. dollar — “So, I urge you to take advantage of the strong dollar and use it this year to make your dreams come true — romantic or otherwise — and visit Britain,” Sir Alan said, to plenty of laughter.
And, he wouldn’t be the director-general of Trade & Investment USA, after all, if he didn’t shamelessly promote Great Britain.
“Now’s a great time with the weak pound to the dollar to set up a business in the U.K.,” Sir Alan said. “We’re very business friendly — it only takes 30 days to set up.”
He also said that the upcoming G-20 summit (in London on April 2) is “crucial” because there needs to be a cultural change as to how firms treat risk.
“The world is no longer isolated — we need international regulations, and we need to keep multi-lateral trade open,” he said.
Protectionism is not the answer to economic difficulties.
“We need to trade our way out of the current recession,” Sir Alan said. “And we need central action to get money moving again.”
Moreover, the “green goose” of today and the future is investing in environmental policy that will help “end the global dictatorship of oil.”
And, as global coordinator of the London 2012 Olympics, Sir Alan cannot overlook an opportunity to likewise promote business at the Games.
“I don’t need to tell the city that’s the home of the Olympic committee about the magic of the Olympics. The 2012 Olympics in London is our stimulus package,” he said, to more laughter. “You like to talk about shovel-ready projects — this is shovels in the ground. And Americans can invest in them. There’s a unique openness that stands us apart. If you do business with us and you want to expand in Paris, our (counterparts) in France will help you.”
Rebecca Tonn covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.