In 100 days the world’s attention will be focused on Wales.
Prime Minister David Cameron and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will host one of the largest-ever gatherings of world leaders to be held in the UK for the 2014 NATO Summit.
Heads of Government from the 28 NATO member states and senior dignitaries from NATO’s 30 partner countries will meet at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport from 4 to 5 September.
This will be the first NATO Summit in the UK since we welcomed the Alliance to London in 1990 and the first time a sitting USA President has made an official visit to Wales. In total, some 2,000 delegates are expected, along with an estimated 1,500 journalists.
The NATO Summit will provide Wales with an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the very best it has to offer to a global audience of billions, cementing our international reputation and our ability to host events of global importance and I am confident that we can rise to the challenge.
Both governments in London and in Cardiff are working hard to ensure that Wales derives the maximum benefit from the summit and is promoted as a great place to visit, do business and study.
The UK government will also be promoting Wales overseas, using our extensive network of embassies, consulates and high commissions around the world.
Building on the summit, it is my intention to hold an international trade conference in Wales to reap the maximum benefit of our time in the international spotlight. Business confidence across the UK is at a record high and the highest it has been in Wales since 2009. British products and services and - by extension - those produced in Wales are in demand and, as a country, our global profile has never been higher. The trade conference will provide additional opportunities for our world-class Welsh exporters.
It is important to educate young people about the UK’s role in NATO, which is why a teaching resource for 11 to 18 years has been developed and will soon be available to schools across the UK.
It also is fitting that this year’s summit, with its focus on ‘Future NATO,’ is being held in Wales, which has long been in the forefront of the aerospace and defence industries. Welsh companies employ thousands of people in this sector and provide high quality equipment and support to our excellent armed forces around the world.
The Newport area itself boasts Europe’s largest and most advanced centre of military armour technology. We also have advanced defence engineering companies in north Wales, such as Raytheon UK, whose Broughton site produces the technology used in the Sentinel aircraft, the UK’s most advanced manned surveillance system. It is essential that we take advantage of the summit to ensure that Welsh expertise in the defence sector is highlighted to delegates.
Wales, of course, has a proud military history and strong links with our armed forces. Our reservists have for centuries been a strong element of the British military. In recent times, Welsh units and reservists have both been deployed and served on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anglesey is home to RAF Valley, a world-leading centre for military aviation, which plays a key role in the local economy and makes an important contribution to UK defence and resilience – something recognised by the many nations who send their pilots there to train.
In September, world leaders will gather in Wales to discuss issues of huge importance to us all: terrorism, piracy, unstable states, cyber attacks and the challenge of building stability in an unpredictable world. Ensuring that all NATO nations have the equipment, skills and intelligence needed to protect themselves will also be a focus.
But all the opportunities that this year’s NATO Summit in Wales will undoubtedly bring, perhaps the most important is that of restating the message that the interests of the free world and its peoples continue to be better protected by working closely together.
For updates on the 2014 Nato Summit follow the official summit Twitter account @NATOWales