23 May, 2022

Playing the export game

02 April, 2015

At first sight it would appear that, overall, there is an encouraging amount of good news concerning the UK economy. For example, according to trade figures for January 2015 published this month (March) by the ONS, UK trade deficit on goods and services was £0.6 billion in January 2015, down from £2.1 billion in December 2014. Also, between December 2014 and January 2015 the volume of exports rose by 2.2 per cent, while the volume of imports fell by 4.0 per cent. However, as David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce recently commented, the scale of the decline in the deficit is exaggerated by volatile factors, in particular the substantial fall in oil imports as a result of plummeting oil prices. However, there are also positive longer-term trends. For example, in the three months to January the trade deficit almost halved compared with the previous three months, and was the smallest three-monthly deficit since 2000.

Recognising the need for continued improvement in UK exports, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is calling for export and trade growth to be at the heart of the next Government's economic strategy – with a particular focus on working with business to help more companies export their goods. A particular push would appear to be required in the direction of firms newer to the ‘export game’. A recent BCC survey of more than 4700 businesses found that new exporters (0-2 years) accounted for only 11 per cent of exporting firms, while three quarters of exporters (75 per cent) have traded internationally for more than five years. Further findings also show that once firms begin to export they rapidly expand into other markets, as almost two thirds (64 per cent) of exporters trade with six or more countries.

The BCC has proposed a number of measures to assist first-time exporters, and to help existing exporters target new international markets: the first of these is to continue to develop a world-class, global business-to-business network of British Chambers and business groups – linking British firms with customers and opportunities for growth in the fastest-growing overseas markets. Secondly, continue work to bring UK Export Finance up to par with the world’s best export finance agencies – ensuring UK businesses can access finance needed to seal deals in markets around the world. Thirdly, the BCC calls for a reform of the UK’s passport and visa system – to allow overseas British business people and their foreign counterparts to conduct trade activity with ease, boosting Britain’s export performance. Fourthly, the BCC recommends that foreign language learning is made compulsory from age 7 to 16 – supporting more young people to ‘think global’, and acquire the knowledge and skills that are highly valued by Britain’s exporters.

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