Businesses call for export support amid drastic fall in international trade

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said it is to launch a concerted campaign to boost UK companies’ ability to trade internationally.

The organisation has launched its new manifesto after research showed that exporters are uniquely facing a wide range of issues, from unprecedented inflationary pressures and global supply chain crises to a raft of new requirements flowing from the EU trade deal.

The BCC said its manifesto sets out a comprehensive list of steps to get more UK businesses, currently just 10%, involved in international trade.

The study found 23% of firms surveyed said finding a business partner or distributor overseas would encourage them to either start exporting or export more. A further 16% of firms also said support with trade documentation would encourage them to start exporting or increase the amount of business they do overseas.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the BCC, said: “The UK is bursting with amazing businesses offering goods and services that are high quality, sustainable and well designed. There are hundreds of overseas markets which are crying out for what we can offer.

“Yet only 10% of UK businesses are currently involved in exporting when all our research shows that firms trading overseas are more productive, innovative and resilient.

“So, it’s vital we now recruit a new generation of exporters to help take our overseas trade to the next level. We are standing at a moment where we can seize the opportunity to be in the vanguard of a world-wide revolution in new technology, digital services and Net Zero innovations.”

He added: “Our research shows that overseas trade fell off a cliff in early 2020; just 8% of UK exporters saw any increase in the second quarter of that year. Almost two years later and the figures are still way below where they need to be, with only around a quarter reporting improvement.”

The BCC has said the UK Government could deliver greater support to businesses including ensuring there are a range of actions in any trade deal wither European Union

These include:

  • Streamlining customs and trade processes to reduce paperwork and delays
  • Developing more business-friendly rules on cross-border VAT
  • Bringing back, and boosting, the Brexit SME Support Fund to help firms adapt

It also called for the creation of a Business and Trade Growth Office at the Dept for International Trade to help smaller businesses get involved in exporting. It demanded better access for UK professional services and mutual recognition of qualifications, and new rules on trade that support the future exports of environmental goods and services.

Ms Haviland added: “We want to work with the UK Government and other trading bodies to build a proper coalition of support for a strong UK trade and investment strategy.

“If we want more firms to get involved in exporting then we need to see more end-to-end support to help them make the leap.

“But businesses also have the knowledge and practical know how to help the UK Government negotiate trade treaties that can open up new growth opportunities.

“We have always been champions of international trade and there is no doubt in our minds that businesses that embrace exporting to overseas markets will be better off for it, as will our economy. All it takes is a willingness to try.”

The study found 23% of firms surveyed said finding a business partner or distributor overseas would encourage them to either start exporting or export more. A further 16% of firms also said support with trade documentation would encourage them to start exporting or increase the amount of business they do overseas.

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