Michael Fallon Eyes £65bn Kazakh Trade Deals
Michael Fallon, the Business Minister, will fly to Kazakhstan on Sunday in an attempt to help British companies win a share of $100bn (£65bn) in new trade deals.
Mr Fallon, who was promoted in last autumn's Cabinet reshuffle, will visit resource-rich Kazakhstan aiming to bang the drum for companies with a big presence there, including BG Group, the gas producer, and Rio Tinto, the mining group.
Trade ties between Britain and Kazakhstan are relatively modest in scale, with UK exports to Kazakhstan in 2011 standing at £530m, and UK imports just £459m.
British companies have won $7bn (£4.5bn) in contracts in Kazakhstan in the last ten years, but Mr Fallon believes the opportunity is much more substantial than that, with up to 15 times that sum available in contracts during the next decade.
"The French and the Germans are already there, on the ground, and we have to be relentless in pursuing opportunities for British trade," he said.
His trip will be the first by a business minister since the last general election to the central Asian country.
During talks with ministers and government officials, Mr Fallon is also expected to discuss the operations of GlaxoSmithKline and HSBC, which also have a presence in Kazakhstan.
Tens of millions of Britons do already have an exposure to the Kazakh economy through investments made by pension funds in companies such as ENRC, the FTSE-100 miner.
Mr Fallon's trip to Kazakhstan will come in the same week that David Cameron travels to India accompanied by the biggest-ever business delegation to visit the country.
The Prime Minister is expected to promote access to the vast Indian market for British retailers as well as discuss a string of major defence and aerospace deals.
His visit takes place amid deepening concerns that the UK's trade ties with India are faltering, placing the Coalition's target of doubling trade by 2015 in doubt.