Salt and Father Christmas: A case study to beat the impending economic downturn

Richard Salt has just finished a 5-year stint as Director of UK Trade and Investment at Britain’s embassy in Tel-Aviv.

Richard is not just your ideal friendly economic diplomatic. As his ambassador described, he has been the perfect Father Christmas at staff parties in recent years. This is a person, who quietly but forcibly has driven trade between the two countries to consistanly higher levels, despite three years of international economic gloom.

First some facts. Combined trade between Britain and Israel has now beaten the £3 billion mark, roughly a third higher than when Richard arrived in the Holy Land. In 2010 alone, 14 additional Israeli companies set up shop in Britain. Sir Richard Branson visited Israel just before this Christmas break, when he announced Cleantech partnerships with local companies. And a new UK-Israel scientific body was launched last month, securing the UK a smoother path to collaborate with the successes of Israeli hightech.

Walk into the embassy in Tel Aviv and you are greeted by an experienced and professional economics team. They know the potential of both countries superbly well. If the Israeli side presents a clear vision of what kind of British partner they are looking for, the chances of success are high.

The economic outlook for 2012 in Europoe is not one of cheer nor optimism. A recent opinion pieceby Prof. Zilberfarb in Globes, one of Israel’s leading financial journals, detailed how:

What is the link between the global shocks and developments in Israel? The answer is simple. More than 40% of Israel’s output is exported. A crisis in global markets, which reduces their demand, therefore affects almost half of Israel’s output. Given this figure, Israel’s rapid growth, despite the global recession (from late 2008), is extremely impressive.

2012 is shaping up to be a year in which the Israeli economy will show signs of surrendering to the global crisis. There will not be a recession, but a sharp slowing of the growth rate from about 5% to 3%.

In that perspective, the achievements of Salt’s team were not just impressive. Their approach shows a way forward for others to follow.

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