“Ukraine has many potentially attractive sectors for investment”
Simon Smith was born in 1958 in Germany and studied modern languages at Wadham College, Oxford University. Simon Smith joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1986, after one year in the East African Department, he undertook Japanese language training before being posted to Tokyo as Second, later First Secretary (1989-1992). He has held several positions in the FCO in London, including Deputy Head of Southern European Department (1995-1997), Head of North East Asia & Pacific Department (2002-2004), Head of Eastern Department (2004-2005) and Director for Russia, South Caucasus and Central Asia (2005-2007). He was posted in Moscow as Counsellor (Economic/Commercial), responsible for the promotion of trade and investment, from 1998 to 2002. From 2007 until August 2012, he was the British Ambassador to Austria, and the UK’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Vienna, and Governor on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
When he is not at work, he enjoys playing piano, trombone and trumpet, cooking, exploring the
literature of the country in which he is living, and sport – mainly as a spectator, but still playing a bit of football and cricket when he can. He speaks English, German, Russian, French and Japanese, and he is keenly studying Ukrainian.
Recently, His Excellency Mr Simon Smith Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Ukraine visited Lviv and shared his views on some issues regarding economic relationships between Ukraine and UK with readers of “Lviv Today”.
1. Did you visit Ukraine before coming to this country as ambassador?
I first came to Kyiv in 1994 for a 2 day working visit. I was back in Ukraine in 2000 for a family holiday in Yalta, and I spent 2 weeks in L’viv in March 2012 (while I was still British Ambassador in Vienna) to take my first steps in learning the Ukrainian language, with the help of excellent teachers and mentors at the Ivan Franko National University of L’viv. So when I arrived in Kyiv in September 2012 to start my job as Ambassador, it was already my fourth time in the country.
2. An ambassador should know as much as possible about the country he is posted to. What helped you most to learn more about Ukraine?
Before I started my job as Ambassador here, reading helped me most: literature, history and the press. I have always been fascinated by the way in which the map of Europe has changed in the last 2000 years, and how peoples and languages have moved across that landscape. Ukraine’s place in that history is extremely interesting, and reading about it from various sources increased my enthusiasm about coming to live and work in today’s Ukraine. I treat almost everything I do in my job as a learning experience in one way or another, but I also try to keep improving my background knowledge of contemporary Ukraine by continuing to read as much as I can – in Ukrainian, Russian, and English – of the news and current affairs media. (But somehow, I still never seem to have much time to watch TV!)
3. What are the most important sectors of economic cooperation between Ukraine and United Kingdom?
There are many British companies established across Ukraine and exporting to Ukraine. British companies are active in a wide range of sectors – pharmaceutical, energy, retail, infrastructure, education, financial and professional services, as well as agriculture. Many well-known British brands are already present in the Ukrainian market.
UK exports to Ukraine have grown for the last two years – by 7% in 2012 and by 19% in 2011. UK exports in 2012 were over £ 581 mln and in 2011 almost £543 mln. Total bilateral trade in 2011 was over US$1bn (almost £900 mln).
4. Foreign investors show some interest in the development of the tourist infrastructure in the Western Ukraine. Do you happen to know whether any investors from UK show any interest in this region?
I am aware of a number of UK companies with investment and interest in Ukraine, but we are, of course, very keen to promote and advance trade ties and business links between Western Ukraine and the UK. Ukraine has many potentially attractive sectors for investment – energy, including unconventional gas, energy efficiency and renewables, agriculture and infrastructure. This list is not exhaustive and I believe will include more opportunities over time.
5. In your opinion, how could economic relations between the two countries – Ukraine and United Kingdom – be strengthened?
One clear example I’d like to give is the potential benefits of the ‘deep and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, as part of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The Association will bring many economic benefits and also encourage British exporters and investors as a result of the harmonisation of legislation and Ukraine’s inclusion in the EU single market. We believe that the DCFTA/AA will lead to an overall improvement in the business and investment climate, particularly through tackling such important issues as corruption, lack of transparency and the weak rule of law.
At the same time, the UK welcomes international investors and my Embassy’s Trade and Investment team are always happy to hear from Ukrainian businesses looking to develop business opportunities with British companies.
6. What would you recommend to take the Lviv city authorities to attract investors from UK?
During my recent meetings in Lviv with the regional governor and Lviv city Vice-Mayor, I saw at first hand that that they already have some good ideas about how to attract international investors. A good example of this is the International Investment and Innovation Forum “High Technologies for Development and Welfare” to be held in Lviv on 6-7 June.
It is not for me to advise the Lviv authorities of course. But another idea might be some sort of promotional campaign in the UK highlighting tourism, investment and business opportunities of this region. And perhaps, in the longer-term, they might consider how to introduce direct flights between Lviv and the UK as a potential way of boosting tourism and economic ties.
7. John Hughes is famous in Ukraine as the founder of Donetsk - why is he not better known in the UK?
Britain is often referred to as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, and there were a great many people like John Hughes who set out from Britain during the 19th century to bring new industrial technologies and methods of working to other parts of the world. The BBC produced a feature on Hughes some years ago, and I am sure that thousands more people in the UK learned about this British connection with Donetsk when the England football team played there during Euro 2012. A lot of my ancestors came from the South Wales region as John Hughes, so it’s a connection I am always happy to celebrate.