At first glance, the jibe of Napolean Bonaparte that the British were a nation of shopkeepers might seem to ring true. British based retailers Marks and Spencer, Tesco, and Debenhams are among some of the most visible exports to Czech cities. But the British are now seeking to significantly broaden their impact.
British exports to the Czech Republic rose by 7.1 percent last year but British trade remains at a deficit: 64 billion crowns worth in imports from Britain compared to Czech exports worth 153 billion. But if current plans prove successful, British exports should grow significantly over the next six years, making Britain one of ten top exporters to the Czech Republic. That, at least, is the ambitious trade mission launched this week led by British Trade Minister Lord Ian Livingston, visiting the Czech Republic and other countries in the region including Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
Areas to be focussed on in the Czech Republic include energy, financial services, the health sector, lifesciences, security technology and IT. The delegation, representing some 60 businesses, was in Brno to prepare the ground for new business opportunities.
Increased trade should also provide new opportunities for firms based in the Czech Republic, including the Moravian engineering giant Vítkovice. On Tuesday, Lord Livingston confirmed that components would be needed for nuclear power plants planned in the UK and that there was room for the Czech Republic to compete:
"There is a real opportunity: the UK is looking to build a new generation of nuclear stations and we are looking to work with partners."
Such contracts could prove especially useful for the engineering group at a time when similar contracts in Russia are threatened by developments in Ukraine and Crimea. The director of trade of the Vítkovice Machinery Group, Břetislav Nitka, confirmed that talks with Russian partners were on hold for the time being. At a time when it appears likely that plans for new reactors at the Czech Republic's own Temelín nuclear plant are also set to be scrapped, contracts with the UK - worth hundreds of millions of crowns - could be of utmost importance.
Clearly both sides stand to benefit from increased trade.
Until now, the best-known British firms in the Czech Republic include Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Rolls Royce, but the UK will be hoping to broaden the list significantly.
The best Czech brands exported to Great Britain, meanwhile, are most certainly the beer Pilsner Urquell and the Mladá Boleslav-based carmaker Škoda Auto.
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