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Rediff.com  » Business » UK trade secretary backs shifting of jobs to India

UK trade secretary backs shifting of jobs to India

Last updated on: November 18, 2003 18:42 IST

British Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt has aroused the wrath of business and union leaders for apparently backing the exodus of jobs from Britain to India.

Australian-born Hewitt, a regular visitor to New Delhi, is an advocate of stronger economic links with India.

But her latest comments -- "Why deny India the benefits of growth that come from these jobs? Half the world's poor live there" -- have provoked an outcry in the United Kingdom.

Hewitt was speaking at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry which has already heard the trade body's director general Digby Jones warn how the roaring economies of "India and China could eat the UK and Europe for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Hewitt's subsequent comments to Confederation of British Industry delegates assembled in Birmingham seem to give the green light for a massive jobs shift to India, apparently at the cost of tens of thousands of tens of thousands of workers who have been sacked from their places of work in the UK.

"I know that often it is much easier to see the short-term benefits of protectionism than it is to see the long-term costs to consumers," Hewitt said in her speech.

"I also know there is no future for Britain in low-cost, low-margin production, certainly not trying to make cheap, white cotton tee shirts."

"Our response is not to put up tariff barriers. What we have to do is help companies into areas of the economy where we can compete. We have to resist the temptation to protectionism," she said.

"Why deny India the benefits of growth that come from these jobs? Half the world's poor live there."

In response British Chambers of Commerce policy adviser Mathew Knowles has warned, "It is very worrying that a British minister is saying that it is a good thing jobs are being lost in this country."

"It should not be about what benefits India. It should be about what is best for Britain. All we are asking for is a level playing field. The movement of jobs in the long-term will be devastating for Britain," he said.

Top union leader Kevin Curran commented, "To congratulate British companies for going for cheap labour over highly skilled, highly motivated workers in Britain does not seem to be in the best interests of the British economy."

Shyam Bhatia in London