THE Government has been accused of delivering another snub to the North-East after the region's bosses were denied seats on a key trade trip to India.
The Prime Minister has asked his deputy Nick Clegg to lead a three-day visit to one of the biggest and fastest-growing economies in the world.
There is strong representation from firms in London and the South-East on the trip that starts today (Monday, August 25) - but none of the 40 delegates are from the North-East.
James Ramsbotham, the chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: “I think this is an opportunity missed by the Prime Minister."
It comes eight months after North-East company bosses were denied places on a landmark trade mission to China.
The latest visit will include meetings in the economic powerhouses of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to "forge even deeper and stronger bonds between our people," and boost the £16bn of trade that takes place between the two countries every year, said Mr Clegg.
India invests more in the UK than it does in the rest of the European Union combined. This week's visit will be used to sign new deals in the aerospace and retail industries, and expand UK-India student exchange programmes.
Mr Ramsbotham was dismayed there would be no regional representation among the first UK trade delegation to meet new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
“It is a real shame that this important trade mission to India does not include any of the North-East’s great companies or representation," said the NECC chief.
"It is a key export market for our firms and one which the NECC has been keen to promote among our members via our Access programmes.
“It is a sad fact that here is a southern bias when organising important trade missions of this nature. They are put together by people who are based in the Department of Business and the Foreign Office – and their contacts and the people they know are usually all based in London and the South-East of England," he added.
In October, the NECC and UKTI are hosting an Access visit to India to tap into new markets and help boost the £47.1m of annual exports sent from the North-East to the Subcontinent.
The World Bank predicts the Indian economy will grow by more than six per cent in the next two years.