International exhibitions and major sports events should be exploited to the full to publicise the cultural and industrial heritage of Wales, and its place as a forward-looking country in the 21st century.
He made his comments during a major keynote speech to the Representation of Welsh Identity Abroad Symposium held at the Atrium, the University of Glamorgan’s brand new home for the Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries.
The First Minister said he was delighted that Wales would be the featured country in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in 2009.
It’s so important that we tell the right story about ourselves as a nation to a million Americans on their own front lawn during this festival – and then that we actually tell that story to ourselves.
It is about weaving together three stories - the story of ancient Celtic Wales, the Wales of Hywel Dda and the Eisteddfod and Dafydd ap Gwilym. It is about the story of industrial Wales, the World’s first industrial nation. And it is about the story of modern Wales, the confident post-devolution high-tech Wales set in a beautiful environment. These are the stories of who we were, and where we are now.
When we have finished telling that story to the Americans, we must also think about how we raise our profile in emerging markets such as China and India.
We’ve always played catch-up with Ireland and Scotland in raising Wales’ profile in countries like America. If we’re struggling there, just think how tough it’s going to be to establish a profile for Wales in markets where even Ireland and Scotland are not well known.
But we have some advantages. Our links with Chongqing, which is at the crossroads between eastern and western China, has given us a head start as it is now the most active overseas relationship we have.
And at the end of the month we will be leading our first trade mission to India. Following the Ashes match in 2009, we hope that Cardiff lands an England-India test match in 2011. That would be a huge boost to our profile - despite the ‘England’ team paradox.
Perhaps we need special dispensation to send our own official one day or 20-20 side to India the previous winter to get the concept of Wales across in that mega-market!
Let’s face it, by 2050 or even earlier the relationship with India and China is probably going to be more important to us that our relationship with the USA, Germany or France. These are two markets that Wales has to crack.
The Tata takeover of Corus, Tata Software’s hookup with BT software centre in Cardiff and the possible purchase of Land Rover and Jaguar by Tata Motors is an early sign of what’s to come.
The First Minister said that the strength of Wales lay in its people.
We have now embraced devolution, and the country exudes enthusiasm and positive thinking. That is the spirit we must harness and project abroad to have greater impact and to punch above our weight. We have a wonderful story to tell – let’s not be shy about shouting it from the rooftops.
14 November 2007