Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gates, Leahy to 'sell' London to India

LONDON: Britain?s prime minister in-waiting has recruited Microsoft?s Bill Gates and Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy to sell London to India in the UK?s first privatised, powerfullypushed, three-year initiative ever to market the country to the world?s emerging economies.

The initiative, unveiled in Parliament by Chancellor Gordon Brown on Tuesday in his 10th budget statement is self-confessedly geared to sell Britain to the emerging East in an aggressive and ambitious way. The India initiative, as it is being dubbed in some quarters, will entail setting up a 12-member International Business Advisory Council that will include Gates, Leahy, Lee Scott, head of the world?s largest retail group Wal-Mart and Li Ka-shing, chairman of Hong Kong telecom giant Hutchison Whampoa.

But experts said the British government could be setting itself up for a potential conflict of interest in recruiting Leahy for the advisory council, now that Tesco is reportedly at an advanced stage in talks with Sunil Mittal?s Bharti Enterprises for a joint venture grocery chain throughout India. Officials said the heavy-weight advisory council will be expected to guide the British government on ?facing up to the economic challenge posed by India and China.?

Brown, who has been Britain?s chancellor for nine years and is expected to replace Tony Blair in the prime ministerial flat at 10, Downing Street, is understood to believe passionately in the need to sell the UK to India and China as the best place to do business.

The new initiative will require the government export promotion agency UK Trade and Investment to aggressively build links with Indian academics and businessmen and lobby for research and development to move to Britain. Brown is understood to believe that the UK needs to focus on ?key markets? such as India to boost London?s standing as a global financial centre in the face of stiff global competition.
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