Why Britain needs to buddy up to the Brics

Did you know that Britain exports more to the Republic of Ireland than to all the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India and China) combined?

Nor did I till I checked the figures. Of course, it makes a lot of sense in one way. Dublin is a great deal nearer to London than Beijing or Rio are.

Yet somehow this puts our current political pow-wow in perspective.

The party leaders are slugging it out to see who can win the keys to No.10. But none of what they’re wrangling about – almost all domestic issues – “gets close to dealing with what will be the real challenge of tomorrow”, says Anthony Hilton in the Evening Standard.

What is that challenge? In short, says Hilton, “staying in the global game, and paying our way in the world as economic power migrates to Asia”.

The shift to the east is already happening of course. Emerging markets are set to grow much more quickly than developed markets this year, maybe three times as fast, according to Michael Geoghegan. As the boss of HSBC, the world’s biggest bank, he should know what he’s on about. It explains why he’s just bailed out of London to Hong Kong.

Indeed, within three years, he says, the economic firepower of emerging markets will overtake the developed world, as a rapidly growing middle class develops a taste for the finer things in life.

“But the UK shares very little of this”, says Hilton. “Wealth creation is on no one’s agenda… The conditions we need to create and support dynamic, competitive, world-leading businesses don’t get a mention.”

It’s a fair point, but it might be selling the Tories a bit short. If elected, David Cameron has at least promised “to spearhead the ‘aggressive promotion’ of British business in Asia”, says today’s FT. And this isn’t my party political broadcast – let’s hope the country’s other politicians share the same message.

In any case, the bottom line is clear. As we point out in this week’s magazine cover story (How to position your portfolio for polling day), (if you’re not yet a subscriber, subscribe to MoneyWeek magazine) in order to pay our government’s soaring bills, this country needs good, consistent long-term economic growth.

And one of the best ways of achieving this, whether it’s in manufacturing or financial services or preferably both, will be for Britain to make the most of the Brics’ expansion – before our ‘developed world’ rivals get in there first.

Having said that, you don’t have to wait for the government to get its finger out. As an investor, you can make money off the back of Asia’s growth simply by investing there. But you have to be choosy. Sign up for my colleague Cris Sholto Heaton’s free weekly email, MoneyWeek Asia, to learn more.