Question: I understand the Isle of Man is focusing plenty of attention at the moment on China for international development. Could they explain where we stand at the moment on this and could they enlighten us on what they believe the benefits will be for the island from links with China?
The Department of Economic Development undertook a country strategy evaluation of various markets in 2011. China was naturally one of the key markets examined from which a number of opportunities were identified leading to China being ranked as our TIER 2 (second priority market) and since which we have implemented an active drive to pursue business there.
These have taken the form of officer visits each quarter and events with industry recently culminating in a trade delegation led by Economic Development Minister John Shimmin MHK.
Culturally, China is, of course, a long term game in terms of building relations and trust (‘guanxi’) first in order to win business, but we have been pleased with progress to date and especially with recent developments from this current work whereby we have had our first major Chinese trading company setting up here and believe we have several more in the pipeline including the possibility of a Chinese bank. In particular the Isle of Man fits well with the Chinese Government’ twelfth five year plan to encourage more Chinese companies to ‘go global’.
This is because the Isle of Man has developed a strong proposition for China around administering trade into the EU given our common customs and market access arrangements when coupled with our low taxes and wealth of international corporate services and expertise.
Ultimately the benefits from our work should be more business for our existing companies and service providers but also some direct new job creation if we are successful in attracting Chinese businesses to establish here themselves. This will be assisted by a China representative we put in place last October and media support added in April.
Question The Economic Development minister visited China recently and I was wondering whether there are plans for any more official visits there? And vice-versa, can we expect many visits from Chinese missions?
The operational plan and commitment to developing the Chinese market encompasses a visit by officers (Michael Charlton and Steven Beevers) on a quarterly basis and potentially an annual political visit.
Consideration is being given to the possibility of a further Ministerial visit in Q1 2014.
In the meantime there are a number of delegations visiting the Isle of Man from China and indeed we had three in just one week this month plus a visit to the island back in April by the Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming.
Question What other parts of the world is the Isle of Man looking to at the moment and I wondered if Mr Charlton could give any examples of work going on.
In addition to the China market, the Department has also identified the Middle East region of TIER 2 level importance to the Isle of Man, mainly for the extent to which it is an important area for retail financial sales and already accounts for billions of pounds in deposits and long term life funds here.
This work is to be picked up further by a new resource in the financial services team shortly.
Meanwhile, India is a TIER 3 target and we are pursuing Indian IPOs and wealth principally through India’s London based connections and advisers but events have also been held in India last year and more are in planning for this which should also again see a small delegation from the Isle of Man back in Mumbai later in the year (December).
The department has recently assessed potential in Russia and will be looking in particular at how that can be developed again with an emphasis on London introducers.
Subject to looking at how we leverage our resources to best effect it is hoped that banking activity in sub Saharan Africa and existing distributor networks in Latin America can also be supported in the year ahead thus extending our range of overseas promotional reach even further.
It is not always the case that government personnel need to travel to all events and support for existing businesses is also in place for various sectors like the Fund Management Association who as a collective sometimes conduct overseas events.
Similarly, it is possible for the department to support individual companies who are looking to develop new overseas marketing strategies into certain markets by means of grants, within the terms of the department’s discretionary incentives scheme.
Question : What sectors of the Manx economy can expect to benefit from this work?
Our various economic sectors can benefit from overseas work though it is important that we try to sell those solutions and propositions which are a ‘best fit’ with each market.
For example e-gaming is inappropriate for China but the Isle of Man as a trading base for the EU is probably the most relevant proposition there.
Similarly, the Middle East (especially UAE) is a good fit for Isle of Man banking and life company services.
While financial services companies tend to have the ability to reach out to overseas markets more easily than most we have also seen potential for manufacturing, construction and other non financial sectors arising from China and elsewhere.
Question: What sort of reception do we get from countries we visit? For example do overseas countries show a keen interest in wanting to know more about the Isle of Man?
We are always pleasantly surprised at how warmly received we are when visiting foreign countries at either an official or business level.
The Isle of Man is always of interest and never fails to surprise people as to the wealth of services and dynamic range of the economy and how we punch above our weight for such a small island.
However, our small size of course does tend to mean we may not have been heard of before and even the TT is relatively unheard of in China.
Often we can run into preconceptions that we are just another small island with low taxes but once we get over the message that the Isle of Man is more like Singapore (which everyone knows) and is quite a large Island with a real economy then the interest can usually be developed effectively from that point on.
Question:Are there any other points that you would particularly like to mention at this stage?
In summary it is fair to say that we are trying to do our best to concentrate and commit our limited resources on those markets with the greatest potential and obviously these may change over time as economies rise and fall.
At the moment China holds the promise of the most likely source of corporate start ups in the EU market and indeed we have a potential pipeline of several of these, whereas for the Middle East it is more about supporting our existing businesses accessing individual wealth.