Prime Minister David Cameron said he wants increasing trade to be the central goal of British diplomats and aid workers.
“I want to refashion British foreign policy, to make us much more focused on the commercial aspects,” Cameron told reporters travelling with him by train from Washington to New York yesterday. “We’ve got to pay our way in the world.”
The emphasis on business marks a shift from the “ethical foreign policy” promoted by the previous Labour government in its early days. Other ministries may see their roles change, with the Department for International Development asked to look at how its aid projects will increase the capacity of recipients to become trading partners.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said today his department will pay for an airport on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena, a British overseas territory, with the goal of allowing it to become economically independent of U.K. aid.
Defense Secretary Liam Fox told lawmakers yesterday he wants to “support the defense industry by maximizing exports.”
The government is also considering opening up senior jobs, including ambassadorial posts, to people from business backgrounds, according to a person familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Simon Fraser, the top civil servant at the Department for Business, will move to the equivalent position at the Foreign Office. Cameron said he recently flew all Britain’s ambassadors back to London to tell them their job was “winning orders for Britain.”
In New York, the prime minister met senior figures in the finance industry, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, to “talk about the importance of keeping Britain’s strength in terms of financial services.”
Next week Cameron flies to India with what he called “an enormous crew of business leaders and chief executives” to promote trade links with the country.