The smartest cities are building up their infrastructure to give them the ability to handle huge amounts of incoming and outgoing trade. The winners in Europe are the gateways getting channelled in to the huge growth of the emerging markets of the 'global South'. 

The massive DP World London Gateway development 40 kilometres east of London is creating a major deep-sea container port and what will be Europe’s largest logistics park. Opening in the final quarter of 2013, it will bring the world’s largest container ships straight to the heart of the UK's economic and population centre. Up the road to the west, the owners of London's Heathrow Airport are lobbying to get the UK’s full-up hub airport better connected to the most important trading nations of tomorrow: Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia.  

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In northern Europe, the German port city of Hamburg continues to show how to stay ahead in the game. Now home to 400 Chinese companies, it is the European centre for trade with China.

In southern Europe, the Spanish city of Barcelona is building up its strategic connectivity, reinforcing its position as the southern gateway to the European market and a launching pad for accessing markets in Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East. Its new hub airport was ranked as the best airport in southern Europe at the 2011 World Airport Awards, and it is planning to expand its busy port, already the largest in southern Europe. It has recently become the administrative centre for the Union for the Mediterranean, which covers 43 countries and 750 million people.  

So with the northern, southern and western gateways in place, what are all the other cities in Europe going to do to stay economically relevant?   

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, a site selection and FDI consultancy. E-mail: douglas@locationconnections.com