Feb.18 - David Cameron’s trade delegation to India is the largest ever taken abroad by a British Prime Minister. But he faces stiff competition in the battle for business as Europe’s debt-stricken states compete with one another to tap into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Ivor Bennett reports
David Cameron may have been the first off the plane in India, but he's by no means travelling alone. Representatives from over 100 British companies are with him in what is the biggest ever trade delegation taken abroad by a British Prime Minister. They range from Rolls Royce to the London Underground, as the UK seeks to cash in on what's expected to be the 3rd largest economy in the world by 2050. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, DAVID CAMERON, SAYING: "This is a fast-growing economy, it's going to be one of the stars of the future, you've got to get in there early and that's what British firms are doing." British exports to emerging markets have more than doubled from pre-crisis levels - reaching over 27 billion last year. But that's only a tiny fraction of its total exports, which are still driven by western demand. Cameron's hoping this trip will change that, but competition for trade here is fierce. French Prime Minister Francois Hollande was in India just 4 days ago on a similar visit. With growth slow at home, James Hughes from Alpari says its no wonder Europe's debt-stricken states are looking to the BRICS for business. SOUNDBITE (English) ALPARI CHIEF MARKET ANALYST JAMES HUGHES, SAYING: "We've looked at them as being the saviour of the world basically. When we've had the US in crisis, the euro zone in crisis. Japan and China have had their own problems, of course, you've looked at these more emerging markets to really give us that boost. I mean India was one of those, which for a long time was performing really well, so you can see why it's a key area for France and the UK to go into" Defence is one of the key battlegrounds in the competition for contracts. The UK hopes to persuade India to buy the part-British made Eurofighter, despite France already lining up a deal for its Rafale jets The timing of Cameron's trip is far from ideal though. India's just cancelled a deal worth three quarters of a billion dollars for helicopters made by Anglo Italian company AugustaWestland. It's a subsidiary of Italy's Finnmeccanica, which is embroiled in a bribery scandal. India's not the only target customer of course Britain's also on a selling mission in the United Arab Emirates. But so is France - winning global business these days requires an increasingly fierce fight.