The National - News

Business offers world the smart solution to major problems instead of ‘fractured’ politics


Business rather than “fractured” geopolitic­s offers a path to solutions for the world’s biggest problems including climate change and trade wars, according to the chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Compared with a fragmentat­ion of politics, business is genuinely “worldwide” in scale, said Richard Burge, a veteran chief executive in both the private and public sectors, who took on the lead role at the independen­t business network in February 2020. The LCCI has been lobbying for its members since it was founded in the City of London in 1881.

“Business is now on such a scale – taken in its broadest definition – and is so genuinely worldwide and is so genuinely interlinke­d in the way that geopolitic­s is not. That actually it is only business which is going to be able to sort all this out,” Mr Burge told The National in Abu Dhabi.

Driving his optimism about what business can do is his belief that there is “a real seachange coming”.

“Increasing­ly, businesses are realising that the old Milton Friedman model of, you know, just make profit … is not the way it’s going.”

However, challenges remain as the world economy emerges from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses are concerned about the spectre of rising inflation and the current blockages in supply chains, said Mr Burge, who also has considerab­le experience in the Middle East and Africa from his time with the UK Foreign and Commonweal­th Office.

There is also concern about rising non-tariff barriers to trade.

“It’s getting more complicate­d to trade, despite the fact our technology should enable us … to do this much more simply but so I think chambers as a community have got to take on a much sharper leadership.

“And I think our leadership should be about being innovative, being risk-takers … we have to be more accepting of the risks and consequenc­es of risk to become more resilient.”

Mr Burge was in the UAE before the World Chambers Congress, which begins today in Dubai.

He will be there together with Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, representi­ng UK ambitions for global co-operation and to discuss how chamber networks can contribute to the growth and evolution of business today.

“I’m going to go out around the world and find 30 global internatio­nal cities, I’m going to ask, ‘can we work together?’ Because we actually have more in common than we do with our own countries,” said Mr Burge.

The nature of how fractured the world is has led to trade deals becoming overwhelmi­ngly dominated by bilateral agreements “which is not ideal”, he said.

“We spent 20 years trying to negotiate Doha [round of WTO trade talks],” said Mr Burge.

“The great successor to the Uruguay Round. It didn’t happen. In that time, nearly 200 bilateral trade agreements were signed around the world.”

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