International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP, has made a speech setting out how the government is aiming to make Britain a 21st century exporting superpower through better use of the UK’s overseas network, new online tools and building an extensive business to business network.
This comes as the government continues to roll out sector deals as part of the Industrial Strategy.
Research shows that companies that export have increased growth potential, are more productive and have better paid jobs.
Last year £620 billion of goods and services exported by British companies accounted for 30% of GDP, with UK exports at a record high.
However, the Department for International Trade estimates that 400,000 businesses believe they could export but don’t, while demand for British expertise and goods overseas is only growing.
Dr Fox, joined by Baroness Fairhead, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion, set out the government’s long-term ambition to go further and increase total exports as a proportion of GDP to 35%.
There are key elements to the strategy to support companies selling overseas:
- encourage and inspire more businesses to export
This includes an increased focus on amplifying the voice of existing exporters to inspire other businesses and facilitating peer-to-peer learning.
- inform businesses by providing information, advice and practical assistance on exporting
New measures include developing great.gov.uk into a single digital platform for both domestic business growth and export support and working with large companies to help build the capability of UK supply chains.
- connect UK businesses to overseas buyers, markets and each other
New measures include support for businesses looking to invest overseas and developing an online tool enabling businesses to submit non-tariff barriers they face.
- put finance at the heart of the offer
Deploying an awareness campaign to target UK exporters most likely to benefit from up to £50 billion worth of export finance and insurance support from UKEF, and promoting UKEF support in overseas markets to help UK companies and consortia win contracts.
In a speech to a business audience in London, International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP said: “The United Kingdom is a great exporting nation and our exporters lead the way, in creating jobs, raising wages and growing our economy.
“UK businesses are superbly placed to capitalise on the rapid changes in the global economic environment and I believe the UK has the potential to be a 21st century exporting superpower.
“As an international economic department, we are determined to support, connect and grow UK companies on the world stage through our international network. As we leave the EU, we must set our sights high and that is just what this Export Strategy will help us achieve.”
Baroness Fairhead, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department of International Trade, said: “Since its creation two years ago, DIT has already helped thousands of UK companies to export – with exports now at a record high.
“As the world’s sixth largest exporter, we do punch above our weight, however, we also punch below our potential. This Export Strategy sets out to change that and to increase exports as a proportion of GDP from 30% to 35%, taking us from the middle of the G7 to near the top. This is ambitious, but achievable.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Expanding trade is fundamental to creating new jobs, raising productivity and increasing prosperity across the country. This strategy is a timely signal that the government is committed to improving the United Kingdom’s international competitiveness.
“The CBI strongly supports the ambition to make exports 35% of GDP, which will put the UK out in front of many of our international competitors. We estimate that in every region of the country there are around 10% of businesses that could export, but don’t, and we look forward to working alongside the government to support and inspire them to seize the opportunity.
“The CBI has consistently called for a long-term approach to exports. Previous strategies have come and gone, but businesses have been let down by their execution. Firms will work with the strong team in place at the Department for International Trade to ensure these plans are now rigorously carried out.”
Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: “Maximising trade opportunities across the globe will be key to the UK’s future economic success, so we welcome this new export strategy, which provides a solid foundation upon which to build. The government deserves credit for investing time and effort in working with business to draw up this strategy, and we are delighted that a number of the IoD’s recommendations have been incorporated.
“Improving the UK’s export performance will depend upon many variables, but the good news is that there is plenty that can be done now to help businesses, irrespective of Brexit. We will be encouraging our members to engage with government to make sure this strategy really takes off and enables British firms to realise their full trading potential.”