Trade Promotion as Public Diplomacy

May 18, 2011

UK Trade and Investment  is the government organization that promotes outward exports and inward investment into the UK it’s a joint effort of the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  Last week UK Trade and Investment issued its new corporate strategy document.

Apparently UKTI is thought to be quite good

In 2010, UK Trade & Investment was proud to be recognised by its peers as the Best Trade Promotion Organisation from a Developed Country. The biennial Trade Promotion Organisation (TPO) Network Awards, held at the World Conference of TPO.

I missed the coverage of that….

In parallel with the UKTI Strategy  the FCO issued  A Charter for Business about its commitment to support UK business.    Students of public diplomacy tend to come to the area from an interest in political or cultural issues and the economic dimensions of PD get neglected.  I think that TPO organizations deserve more attention for four reasons.

  1. There is a lot of this activity going on – countries that have very limited political or cultural programmes still have organizations like UKTI.  The UKTI  has a larger budget than the BBC World Service even without taking into account the effort that the FCO puts into supporting economic activity.
  2. In the UK at least trade promotion efforts are one of the earliest forms of external promotion, in fact one of the factors that led to the creation of the British Council was the view that an effort at ‘cultural propaganda’ would support the economic efforts.
  3. Trade organizations have been heavily involved in nation branding efforts.
  4. Looking at the UKTI strategy what is striking is the importance of relationship building.  A large part of the organizations work is matching exporters to potential markets and investors to opportunities in the UK.  Given the importance attached to relationship building and public-private partnerships in current public diplomacy thinking the experience of TPOs may provide additional evidence about what works.

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