By Kate Madley

CBI president Sir Roger Carr called on UK businesses to claim their share of global trading opportunities at the CBI Annual Conference in London yesterday.

Sir Roger told the conference that an export agenda was at the forefront of the CBI’s focus but warned businesses must not forget the strong relationships formed with partners in Europe.

He said the four key drivers of sustainable growth were identified export performance, Europe, industrial strategy and business reputation.

“We must all, business and government, redouble our focus on our export performance, and get after those opportunities that are outside our traditional comfort zone,” said Sir Roger Carr.

“Not just China and India, but Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, and of course South America.

“This is a race where there is no winning post, only marker posts, where at each stage, victory must spur us on to greater efforts in cost-reduction, product innovation, and market penetration.

“There’s a world of opportunity out there, and we must get our share if we are to return to prosperity at home.”

But the CBI president urged the conference, which will also be addressed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Business Secretary Vince Cable, not to forget the importance of protecting relationships with Europe.

“Whilst looking for new partners, we must not forget old friends. Europe, however challenged, remains home for half our exports,” he said.

“It’s like many relationships – can’t live with you, can’t live without you – but somehow the partnership survives.

“Whatever the popular appeal may be of withdrawal, businessmen and politicians must keep a bridge firmly in place.

“As countries of Europe bind together in pursuit of salvation – we in the UK must work harder to avoid the risks of isolation.

“Europe is the bedrock of our international trade. It should be viewed as the launch-pad from which our global trade can expand – not the landmass from which we retreat.

“And if we are to avoid an exit vote in any referendum – it is essential that the voice of British business is loud and clear – in extolling the virtues of future engagement – not as a reluctant participant – but as the lynchpin of our wider global trade ambitions.

“Therefore – politicians must engage, corners must be fought, battles must be won – but the cold business logic of partnership for self interest must be argued and prevail.”