DURING THE FIRST 15 years of the twenty-first century, forces of globalisation as well as progress in information technology have had a deep, transformative effect on economic relationships across the world. Interconnection and interdependence have grown steadily, as supply chains and trade relations have developed in complexity.
Against this background, states find it increasingly important to attract foreign direct investment and innovative talent, while also trying to ensure market access opportunities abroad for their national companies. At the same time, countries have recognised the need to deepen their cooperation in the field of regulation and standard setting, as the most pressing issues of our time do require coordinated, transnational responses.
In such a context, it is only logical that economic, financial and commercial diplomacy are growing in importance. In other words, diplomacy is playing an increasingly significant role in supporting jobs and the growth of a country’s economy by building up its influence strategically in key markets abroad. Understanding, influencing and helping to define and shape the dynamics of international economic relations is therefore very much part of the tasks of a modern, dynamic, diplomatic representation.
This requires economic, financial and commercial diplomats to report on relevant economic and political developments; establish and extend contacts with officials; speak to business and thought leaders; erect bridges between cultures; identify new trends and market opportunities but also barriers to trade; and hone the necessary influence, which will help national companies to thrive if they elect to compete across borders. To be successful at fulfilling these tasks requires skill, determination, adaptability, networks and more.
London, one of the most highly competitive and globalised capitals in the world, does indeed offer unique opportunities to engage and exchange with the global political, economic and intellectual elite, but doors are not always easy to open, especially if one comes from a smaller or medium-sized diplomatic mission.
This is precisely where the Association of Economic Representatives in London (AERL) can help.
The AERL is proud to provide London’s diplomatic community with a valuable platform for dialogue and interaction between high-level representatives of industry, policy-makers, academics and government. Bringing together more than 250 diplomats and officials dealing with economic, trade, finance, innovation and business promotion from all over the world, the AERL opens doors that would be much harder for members to access if they are working alone, and helps its members to considerably broaden their network.
Steered by a board fully reflecting the wide diversity of London’s diplomatic community, the AERL believes that its global membership is its most important asset. Emphasising the essential ‘human dimension’ in both diplomacy and business, we give thought, business and political leaders a unique opportunity to address and exchange views with our diverse membership. To offer our members high added value, the AERL ventures into many different sectors, always trying to find opportunities to address today’s pressing issues or nascent trends, which economic, financial and commercial diplomats need to engage with to prepare for tomorrow’s world.
We actually organised 11 high-level events in 2015. Our members had a unique opportunity to hear and exchange with leaders in the fields of finance and investment, nation-branding, commodities trading, institutional investment, insurance and reinsurance, transport management, geo-economics, regulatory framework and financing/growing of small- and medium-sized companies, sustainable urban development and clean technologies, entrepreneurship and small businesses’ views vis-à-vis the UK-EU renegotiation.
Furthermore, through the growing network the AERL has established with other relevant business or policy-making organisations in London, we managed to give our members access to numerous other gatherings in the fields of finance, trade, infrastructure investment and business promotion, helping them to broaden further their networks, report on relevant developments and get their voices heard.
Our aim for 2016 is very much to continue to grow the AERL’s relevance for its members as well as its partners, and to keep offering them high added value. Themes such as cybersecurity, business and investment in uncertain times, innovation, impact of automation and technology on economies and societies, trade policy, energy policy, transport, entrepreneurship and systemic risk management are presently being considered by the Board. To give our members an even greater say about the themes we should address to respond to their needs, we plan to send out a survey to our membership.
The untapped potential of the AERL is indeed still vast and full of promise. In a world where increasing complexity, rapid change and the need to adapt are perhaps more essential than ever before, our Association aims to be a helpful tool for all economic, financial and commercial diplomats posted in London by building bridges, opening doors and creating links.
If you are already part of our association, we very much look forward to continuing to work with you. If you are a thought, business or political leader, don’t hesitate to contact us, in order to explore the possibility of a mutually beneficial exchange with the association.
If you are an economic, financial or commercial diplomat or attaché who is considering joining us, we will be delighted to meet and shape tomorrow with you.