Insurance · 20 October 2015

Alibaba founder Jack Ma to advise David Cameron on how UK small businesses can boost their exports

Founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma
Founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma

The founder of ecommerce site Alibaba has been appointed by David Cameron to advise him on business – particularly on boosting small businesses’ exports.

The announcement came ahead of a four-day state visit to Britain by China’s president Xi Jinping, as Cameron looks to forge closer economic ties with the world’s second-largest economy. Both Cameron and chancellor George Osborne feel a closer relationship with China is crucial to building Britain’s economic growth in future years.

Cameron’s spokeswoman said the executive chairman of the Alibaba Group would be joining the prime minister’s Business Advisory Group, providing “particular help and advice on how to get small and medium-sized British businesses boosting their exports and in particular accessing Chinese markets through platforms like Alibaba”.

According to the latest FedEx Great British Export Report, the average UK SME exports £553,000 a year to Europe and imports £535,000, an average net surplus of around £18,000 for those SMEs exporting to European countries. Some 53 per cent of British small businesses export, though the figure varies considerably by company size.

As it stands, 96 per cent of British small businesses that export, do so into Europe. Outside of Europe, the top markets are the US (35 per cent), Australia (24 per cent) China is exported to by 16 per cent of exporting British SMEs.

Some 58 per cent of British small businesses would like more support when it comes to trade bodies, the government and logistics providers in order to optimise success.

In July, the prime minister overhauled his entire advisory board to bring in a slew of chief executives as a “sounding board” on business matters ahead of his planned referendum on EU membership. Among those dropped from the board were Google’s Eric Schmidt and GlaxoSmithKline’s Andrew Witty.

A spokesperson at the time said “there was a business advisory board for the first time [under the coalition government] and the prime minister decided to refresh it and bring on different voices and different opinions this time around”.

It was also said the posts had a five-year tenure, so the board was being rejigged in line with a second term in office.

The group meets quarterly to provide high level advice to the prime minister and senior ministers on “critical business and economic issues facing the UK”.

A range of chief executives from big British names are some of those currently on board, including easyJet’s Carolyn McCall, EY’s Steve Varley, while the likes of Rolls-Royce and BP are also represented.

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Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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