HC Deb 04 November 1999 vol 337 cc276-7W
27. Ms Kelly

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he has taken to encourage British firms to take part in the regeneration of the Kosovo and other Balkan economies. [95851]

Mr. Caborn

On the initiative of the Secretary of State, a joint Government/private sector Taskforce was set up by British Trade International—the recently established joint DTI/FCO trade promotion organisation—to co-ordinate and promote the UK's response to the reconstruction opportunities arising in Kosovo. Its prime objective is to ensure that UK companies are well placed to play a role in the rebuilding of Kosovo. The Taskforce has achieved much. Arising out of its activities, a consortium of UK companies has, with financial support from British Trade International, been awarded the concession to manage the power sector over the next seven months; this will help ensure that there is sufficient power to enable the people of Kosovo to get through the forthcoming harsh winter. It was clear from my recent visit to Kosovo that the good will arising out of this contract should help UK companies compete for other business, not only in the power sector but also in other areas of activity.

British Trade International have seconded an official to the British Office in Pristina to assist UK companies seeking business in Kosovo. In order to keep the business community abreast of developments in Kosovo, the Department has also established a Kosovo website; its address is: www.brittrade.com/kosovo/. This includes information on the activities of the Taskforce and the international funding agencies working there. The well publicised activities of the Taskforce have played a major role in generating UK company interest in Kosovo; nearly 1,000 companies have registered on British Trade International's Kosovo database. British Trade International has been praised widely by the private sector for all its initiatives on Kosovo. Kosovo has been its first test; one which it has come through with flying colours.

Kosovo is seen as the springboard to the wider South East Europe region (the Balkans) which presents significantly more business opportunities. In due course, the role of the Taskforce is likely to focus on this wider region. Through promotional events such as a seminars support for trade fairs and missions, British Trade International continues to draw the attention of UK companies to commercial opportunities in the other markets of the region.