Express & Star

Andy Street reveals why India holds the key to the West Midlands economy

India has become the second biggest inward investor in the West Midlands and is "nipping on the heels" of the United States, the region's mayor has revealed.

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Andy Street in India with representatives from Tata and Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council

Andy Street said the West Midlands would benefit more than other parts of the UK from a post-Brexit free trade deal with India, which is on course to become the world's third largest economy by 2027.

He has vowed to continue to forge links with the country, which already has close ties with the West Midlands through the automotive and business processing sectors.

Mr Street also revealed the number of foreign businesses thinking of investing in the region has doubled to 1,200 since the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The mayor recently returned from a trade mission to India and Bangladesh where he met with major firms including JLR's owners Tata; TVS Motor Company, which owns Norton Motorcycles, and BSA motorcycles owner Mahindra & Mahindra.

He told the Express & Star: "India was chosen for our trade mission because they are already the second biggest inward investor in our region and are nipping at the heels of the US.

"The Indian economy is growing very well, and in terms of investment, they are major players in some of the sectors that our region is involved in.

"They are going to be the third economy in the world very soon, so we've got to be making sure that our links with them are strong.

"It is a hugely important relationship going forward."

Mr Street said India was "disproportionately important" to the West Midlands, with half of all Indian investment to the UK in 2020 coming to the region.

He said the post-Brexit free trade deal, which is yet to be signed, would give the West Midlands a "new opportunity" to grow its economy in the years ahead.

"We already have strengths that suit their businesses," he added.

"All the talk in India is on the keenness to get the trade deal over the line.

"The two prime ministers are committed to doing it and we certainly stand to benefit from it more than most."

Mr Street said the Commonwealth Games had been a major factor in raising the region's profile with potential investors around the world.

He said: "We now have more than 1,200 companies looking at investing in our region. Before the Games the number was less than 600."

"The challenge is now converting the inquiry into actual investors, but we've certainly got plenty of leads to follow up on."