An equally important part of our mission is assisting foreign businesses looking to buy goods and services in Poland, or locate their activity in our country. Our offices around the world are equally sensitive to needs and enquiries of Polish as well as foreign businesses. We are the only offices representing abroad the Ministry of Economic Development responsible for promotion of Polish economy, supporting Polish exporters and attracting foreign investors to Poland. It also means the we act as foreign hands of the newly rebranded Polish Investment and Export Agency, PAIH (formerly the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency, PAIiIZ).
Our trade promotion activities include the organisation of seminars and participation in different trade fairs and exhibitions in the UK. We encourage Polish companies to participate; those that can’t physically make it we can represent, using promotional materials supplied. We answer hundred of questions and enquiries made by Polish and British companies. Our computerised data bases make it possible to provide companies from Poland with lists of their potential British business partners from chosen sectors, and to check their financial standing for them. Our website includes practical information on doing business with British companies and conducting business activity here.
As regards British companies we provide British investors with practical information on where and how to efficiently and successfully invest in Poland. We provide also information on how to co-operate with local and governmental institutions and on financial incentives, available to those who wish to conduct business in Poland. Full information on special economic zones in Poland and public tender procedures are also available.
Although we’re a part of the diplomatic mission in London, we work closely with the British and Polish business community, as our main task is to promote business and economic co-operation between companies from both countries. In doing so we very often join hands with the BPCC, which having similar tasks and priorities is our natural partner in different promotional events.
2016 was a very busy year for us. We organised several seminars and conferences. Here are some of them: The conference Strong connections in Belfast on doing business with Poland and investing in Polish regions; The Polish Tech Day – a conference on Polish ICT start-ups during the London Tech Week; the conference V4 + 1 Central European Start-ups - Connecting Capital with Innovation – the event organised by trade representations of four Visegrad countries and Austria in co-operation with PwC; a seminar organised together with the BPCC on how to prepare UK firms to take part in public procurement tenders in Poland, for EU co-financed projects. All these events were positively received for their substance, speakers and quality of networking opportunities.
In 2016 the embassy’s trade section took part in several trade fair and exhibitions. Just to mention the bigger ones: January Furniture Show in Birmingham, Ecobuild and London Build Exhibitions, Food and Drink Expo and Speciality Food Show and the Sub-Con industrial cooperation fair in Birmingham. We answered more than 1,500 enquiries and questions asked by the Polish and British companies interested in doing business together.
As the trade commissioner at the Embassy I would like to say that we are very happy with our trade turnover with the UK. In 2015 the UK was Poland’s second largest export market globally and in 2016 it would be most probably number three. The final statistics is not available yet, but data up to November 2016 suggests that the value of Polish exports to the UK in 2016 exceeded €12 billion in spite of quite unfavourable GBP exchange rate after the decline of the value of the pound as a result of the Brexit referendum. From our point of view, the important thing is that the balance of trade remains strongly in Poland’s favour.
The high level of economic co-operation between Poland and the UK is been the result of 2004 enlargement of the European Union which included Poland and other countries of our region into the EU internal market. But in case of Poland and the UK there’s another important aspect of this situation: Polish entrepreneurs and companies in the UK. In 2004, when Poland became a member of the EU our partner and ally – the UK, with its competitive, market-oriented economy – was one of the few existing EU members to open its labour market for Poles on the date of our accession. As a result, new opportunities were created for Poles who decided to use their energy and skills to live and work in the UK. Many took the opportunity to settle down and take a job here. Many of them, attracted by the business-friendly economic system decided to set up their own businesses.
Over these years Polish entrepreneurs have made a name for themselves in the British Isles and have successfully managed to build their businesses. Tens of thousands of different Polish companies have been established in the UK. Not only do we have here construction and repair companies, networks of retailers and wholesalers of Polish food, Polish bakeries, pastry shops, cafes, various businesses offering services, restaurants, but also Polish doctors and nurses, dentists, psychologists, stockbrokers, architects and photographers. And ‘business infrastructure’, providers of professional services such as law firms or accounting offices that support Polish entrepreneurs has also been set up. Poles have demonstrated their entrepreneurial skills and their ability to adapt to new conditions.
Today Polish businesses have an increasing impact on the British economy and the British institutions. The British business community recognizes numerous direct benefits it can gain from business relationships with Polish enterprises in the UK. Successful Polish companies are ones that don’t just strive to meet the needs of the Polish diaspora in the UK, but who reach out to British customers, thus increasing their chances of a market success. According to different sources there are about 30,000 Polish companies registered in the UK and that some 70,000 Poles work as self-employed. The Trade and Investment Promotion Section of the Polish Embassy in London strongly supports the process of integration of the Polish business community in the UK. This year will see the Third Congress of Polish Entrepreneurs in the UK and we appreciate much the role of BPCC in supporting PBLINK in this process. The trade section of the embassy closely cooperates with other organizations of Polish entrepreneurs in the UK, such as the Polish Professionals, the Association of Polish Technicians in the UK or the Polish City Club.
Having appreciated the role of BPCC over the past two and half decades in raising British-Polish economic co-operation to a new level, I have to note, however, that today we are in a quite different situation than before. The result of the referendum is undoubtedly an event that will influence the course of European history. Regardless of the scale of their business, entrepreneurs from the UK who operate in Poland and Polish entrepreneurs in the UK will face many changes and they will need to adapt themselves to the reality after Brexit. The precise impact of Brexit is very unclear at this stage and we have to prepare ourselves for challenging years ahead, but I strongly believe that difficult and uncertain situations can bring new opportunities. No matter what the final outcome of Brexit will be, there’s still a lot of potential to further develop economic co-operation between businesses from both countries.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate the British Polish Chamber of Commerce on its Silver Jubilee. During my two and a half year posting as a head of the Trade and Investment Promotion Section, we’ve had many opportunities to work together, always very efficiently and with professional satisfaction. The BPCC is one of the leading and most active British bilateral chambers of commerce, continuing its winning streak at the annual gala dinners of COBCOE, the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe. Long may it continue to do so!