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BRICs and Brexit: Opportunities for the Northern Powerhouse

Posted by: Professor John Shutt

It is commonplace now to argue that a new world order is developing where Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are major players in the global economy. Brexit and all the complex negotiations ahead mean that inevitably there will be a new and stronger focus on relationships and new trade agreements with these countries along with the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Leeds Business School (LBS) is in a unique position to help Yorkshire and northern businesses think through their Brexit strategies and respond to the challenges of the BRICs. We have great expertise and knowledge of trade and development in countries such as China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. The foundation of this knowledge is years of working with Business Schools in these countries. LBS has strong links to Leeds' sister city of Hangzhou, in Shanghai and in Bangalore, which are some of the main hubs to these immense economies. The city of Leeds has been partnered with Hangzhou City Council for thirty years; the two universities are linked to Zhejiang University and Zhejiang University of Technology (ZJUT) and we have strong teaching partnerships and research partnerships there. We have helped the Leeds Local Enterprise Partnership to develop its Chinese and Indian export strategies and have collaborated with the British Council and undertaken research on Chinese companies in Zhejiang province which has been recently published in English for the G20. The book (see below) looks at the development of the private sector in Zhejiang and at the leading companies in the area. Some are well known in the West already, such as Alibaba and Tata, but there is a need to increase knowledge and awareness of other major players, their outward investment strategies and opportunities for export.

The BRICs account for 43% of the world’s population and 25% of the global economy. It looks like GDP growth has resumed, albeit Brazil and Russia are still plagued by governance problems. The new BRICS bank, based in Shanghai, and the new BRICS organisation are developing at an increased pace and UK economic policy makers at national and local levels, along with businesses operating in a range of industrial sectors, cannot afford to ignore international developments.

Brexit and the UK Government's Industrial Strategy will focus attention on these new trade and investment agreements. The development of the Silk Road project and the Summit in May 2017 will see further progress. It is not just about rail and roads, gas and oil, power and maritime infrastructure: there are opportunities in digital and fintec. There is a new dawn which brings new challenges and opportunities, where LBS and our partners have a role to play increasing understanding of changing economies to support the development of both international business and international trade and finance.

The book Innovation and transformation of Chinese Companies: Case Studies in Zhejiang is authored by Chen Huifang, John Shutt and others. and published by Zhejiang University Press. John Shutt is Professor of Employment and Regional Development at Leeds Beckett University and is a Visiting Professor at the College of Business and Management, Zheijang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China.

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