Government seeks to exploit presence of heads of state during Olympics to raise at least £1bn of inward investment
David Cameron is convening a total of 17 summits in London over the next month as the government seeks to exploit the presence of scores of heads of government and state for the Olympics to raise at least £1bn of inward investment.
Senior ministers have been banned from taking an early summer holiday as the government runs a strict rota tries to ensure Britain is properly represented at the summits, which will be devoted to different parts of the world and different industrial sectors.
One of the highlights of a month of intense diplomacy will come on Thursday when the government hosts a Global Investment Conference at Lancaster House which has been renamed the British Business Embassy during the Olympics. This will be attended by 200 ministers and business leaders from around the world.
Nick Baird, the chief executive of UK Trade and Investment, the government body that is organising the summit, said he hopes to attract £1bn of investment. “We will be hosting 17 business summits, nearly 4,000 top business guests and we hope for £1bn of business,” Baird tweeted. No 10 declined to deny reports that the government hopes to attract as much as £4bn in investment.
The investment summit will take place on the day that the prime minister receives Mitt Romney in Downing Street. The Republican nominee for the US presidential election will be stopping off in London for the opening ceremony of the Olympics at the start of a tour that will also take him to Poland and Israel.
The first of the 17 London summits devoted to a country – China – will take place at Lancaster House on Friday hours before the formal opening ceremony of the Olympics. A summit devoted to Brazil, whose president Dilma Rousseff will be greeted in No 10 by Cameron on Wednesday, will be held on 11 August.
The official reason for the China and Brazil summits is that they are the previous and next hosts of the Olympics. But Britain is clear that China and Brazil, as leading members of the Bric countries, are key emerging markets for Britain.
The other 17 summits will cover areas such as creative services, education, energy and infrastructure, engineering and aerospace. The final summit – the International Paralympic Committee Inclusion summit – will take place on 6 and 7 September.
The Global Investment Conference on Thursday will be attended by Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, and Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank. Business leaders at the summit will include Eric Schmidt, the Google chief executive, and Sir Martin Sorrell, the WPP chief executive.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: “This is not about the Olympics. This is using the opportunity of the Olympics and the fact that there will be lots of people in town to forge links with international businesses, look for opportunities for inward investment.”
The prime minister will need all his diplomatic skills for the visit by Romney who will be in London for the opening of the Olympics as head of the Salt Lake City Winter games in 2002. The Romney camp expressed unease after the prime minister was given the full red carpet treatment at the White House by Barack Obama and a trip on Air Force One to the swing state of Ohio in March. Republicans were upset that the leader of their main sister party in Europe accepted such a high profile invitation from a Democratic president at a sensitive time in the electoral cycle.
Downing Street has struggled to explain in recent weeks why the prime minister has agreed to meet the Republican nominee in No 10 after refusing to meet François Hollande while he enjoyed the same status – a presidential candidate from a country that is a close ally. No 10 said at the time of the Hollande visit that the prime minister did not meet candidates in elections.
Asked whether No 10 had now changed its position on meeting election candidates, his spokesman said: “We have been through this so you know the position. The rules are as they were. They are the same and we are applying them.”
Downing Street declined to say whether Cameron would greet Romney with a handshake in public on the No 10 doorstep. “We will come back to you on details of that,” the spokesman said when asked whether they would meet publicly.
Cameron’s team criticised Gordon Brown in 2008 when the then prime minister declined to greet Barack Obama on the No 10 doorstep because he was the Democratic nominee and not president. In a compromise Brown agreed to be photographed talking to Obama in the No 10 garden.
Cameron tried to upstage Brown by walking with Obama from the No 10 gates to parliament. This was rejected by the Obama team out of sensitivity to Brown.
Asked whether Cameron would follow the precedent set by Brown, the No 10 spokesman said: “We will come back to you on all of these things. We have been through these 100 times in recent weeks.”