House of Lords trade minister Francis Maude has announced that the government is to take a new approach to boosting exports – by focusing support on key industries the UK has a strong competitive advantage in.
The “priority markets and sectors” that UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) is to focus on have not been specified in full – but the creation of a Great British Food Unit to help UK food and drink brands reach foreign markets was cited as an example of the future direction of policy.
Emma Jones, founder of small business support group Enterprise Nation, said: “Small British businesses are poised to export, often from their own kitchen table and at an early stage. Leading the way for this community and offering practical, strategic help is one of Enterprise Nation’s top priorities this year.
“As a consequence we’ll be offering five global trade missions for emerging firms looking to extend their reach in 2016. The first leaves for Dublin in March and will focus on food, fashion and homewares.”
Under the new strategy, UKTI is also to to launch a new range of support products for businesses seeking to learn more about exporting – including a digital platform providing expert information, support and advice.
The new government export strategy will be put into place from a newly redesigned UKTI HQ – and supported by 12 new trade envoys championing trade with high-growth and emerging markets including Ghana and Taiwan.
This latest announcement follows the publication in December of detailed plans for increasing the value of UK exports to £1tn by 2020.
Business secretary Sajid Javid said: “To improve the UK’s export performance we need to get the whole of government mobilised and working towards the same goal. By putting a refocused UKTI at the centre of a co-ordinated cross-government approach relevant departments will share expertise to get UK businesses exporting.”
John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), welcomed the new policy. He said: “We are pleased to see the new push towards improving the UK’s export performance. More than 24 per cent of FSB members already export, with nearly one in ten of these exporting more in the last three months. The decision to refocus UKTI’s role and to make exports a priority across government departments must lead to better support for small firms and first-time exporters.
“As ministers implement the new strategy, we urge them to embed the need to support small businesses and first time exporters in each department’s new export plan. The refresh of UKTI’s digital offering will be key to improving access to the best information and advice. FSB will support and promote moves to engage with the UK small business community.”
Over half of the UK’s small firms are exporters, according to research published last year by FedEx – with 96 per cent of such firms selling to Europe. But some 58 per cent of those business leaders surveyed indicated they would like more support to make the most of international opportunities.
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