Wales politics

Wales economy: Carwyn Jones's foreign investment and trade call

Putting Wales on the world map is vital if the nation is to compete in the world economy, says First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones spoke as he met business leaders and trade unions in Cardiff.

He said attracting foreign investment and encouraging international trade was the way forward for Wales.

Lord Heseltine, who is leading a review into whether government departments are helping the economy grow, attended the meeting.

In his first press briefing following the summer recess, Mr Jones said: "The figures for foreign direct investment are improving. They improved in 2011 from 2010.

"What we do need to do is to continue to improve our presence overseas. That doesn't mean opening lots of new offices overseas."

He added, however, that it did mean co-locating staff with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which works with UK-based businesses in international markets, and encourages inward investment.

"UKTI will always have many more resources than we have got," he said.

Mr Jones spoke of the need for the Welsh government to deploy staff to key locations around the world.

These included the west coast of the USA and the Persian Gulf, where he said Wales had one official representing it compared to Scotland's 14.

Educational qualifications

Mr Jones added: "Our absolute focus and determination is to create and protect jobs and to create more opportunities for the people of Wales."

He said he hoped to see an improvement in health and progress in reforming the educational qualifications system during the forthcoming year.

"Above all we want to continue with the measures we have put in place to provide more opportunities for our young people and get the economy moving," he said.

His comments come after an almost four-fold increase in the number of long-term benefit claimants aged 18 to 24 over the last year.

In August there were 4,455 who had been on jobseeker's allowance for 12 months, compared to 1,130 in August 2011.

On Monday Morrisons said more than 300 people had applied for five vacancies at a supermarket in Caernarfon.

Lord Heseltine, a former Conservative deputy prime minister, was invited to attend the meeting as part of his review into competitiveness.

He is looking at how the private and public sectors are working together in the UK.

UK government trade minister Lord Green also attended the meeting in Cardiff.

Image caption Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine attended the Welsh government's council for economic renewal on Monday.

Speaking beforehand, Mr Jones said boosting exports and foreign investment was vital to the Welsh economy.

'New markets'

The first minister - who has led trade missions to China, India and the US - said: "That is why it is more important than ever that the Welsh government supports Welsh companies to explore trade opportunities in new markets.

"The global economy remains extremely difficult and manufacturing and exports will be central to Wales' recovery.

"Making cutting edge products the world wants is vitally important if we are to compete."

The latest statistics show the value of Welsh exports in the last the four quarters grew by £81m compared to the previous four quarters.

The first minister said the Welsh government wanted to build on the momentum.

However exports in the second quarter of this year were below where they were at the same time in 2011.

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