In the years following this rekindling, the UK supported Poland’s aspirations of becoming a member of NATO and the EU, joining which helped raise the country’s profile on the global and regional marketplace. The partnership between the two nations have also resulted in enhanced business cooperation. Since the early ‘90s, Britain, continues to be one of the key home countries of FDI flowing to Poland, as well as an important trade partner.
During the past two and a half decade UK companies have created jobs, helped transform the business culture and brought innovations that have supported the development of the market economy in Poland. Having reached a certain level of development, Poland is now starting to invest in the UK, with some of the most successful Polish brands becoming more visible on British streets. Moreover, Poles have become a meaningful consumer group for UK companies, both through their demand for imported goods at home as well as through being the second biggest migrant community in Britain.
This is a strong foundation to build on in working together in the future. The trade corridor between the two countries, innovation as well as “going global together” seem to be the key topics that the cooperation could focus on in coming years and decades. Imports/exports between the two countries are growing. However, we see room for more growth as the economies develop. Energy, infrastructure, advanced engineering are only examples of sectors for UK companies to expand in Poland. Food, furniture and plastics are – in turn – examples of areas of opportunity for Polish businesses exporting to Britain to satisfy the needs of large Polish diaspora living in the UK as well as UK citizen’s growing appetite for products from Poland, which offer a tempting balance between high quality and low price.
With innovation being key for economies to prosper nowadays, Poland is looking at ways to be more innovative to be able to continue dynamic growth in the future. At present, R&D expenditures in Poland make up less than 1% GDP, while only 13% SMEs innovate (vs. 31% in the EU). Worse – only 5% of exports originate from high-tech sectors. There’s a strong desire to change this status quo and move towards a more innovative economy. According to deputy premier Mateusz Morawiecki’s sustainable development plan, which sets the direction of the country’s economic evolution in coming years, transformation towards more technologically-advanced sectors (reindustrialisation) and growth of innovative companies will be some of the key areas of focus for Poland. British companies could help Poland achieve its goal of more than doubling the share of R&D expenditure in GDP by bringing new technologies to the country, developing some of them in cooperation with Polish partners and by sharing their experience in commercialisation of technologies developed by the science world.
Another area of focus for Poland in coming years is internationalisation. As evidenced by continued trade growth (exports by 7.8% and imports by 3.9% in 2015), the economy is increasingly open. However trade is still focused on developed markets, with the share of the EU in total exports at almost 80%. The country is now aiming at taking the next step in internationalisation, which is the expansion of Polish companies to other parts of the world, including geographies where British businesses have been successfully operating for many years. Starting from scratch may be challenging, but I see significant potential in Polish companies expanding to these markets in cooperation with UK partners, going global together. Poland is now repositioning trade and investment support institutions, integrating different functions under one umbrella – Polish Development Fund. UKTI and other British institutions, who have significant achievements in supporting UK companies in their international expansion, could be a valuable source of insights for the newly-established Polish institution, as could the hugely successful GREAT campaign in promoting the UK’s soft power, diplomacy and commercial aspirations.
Poland and the UK have achieved much together and are eager to continue collaboration in the future to achieve mutual benefits. Headquartered in Britain, with a strong franchise in Poland and presence in over 70 markets around the world, HSBC is well-positioned to work with businesses and investors at both ends of this corridor.