November 8, 2023
The BCC has brought together an extraordinary group of politicians, diplomats, civil servants, businesses and Chambers to push for export growth.
They met at the House of Lords this morning to discuss the BCC’s Trade Manifesto, which is supported by logistics company WTA. It sets out a comprehensive list of steps to get more UK businesses, currently just 10%, involved in international trade.
Among those to contribute to the debate were the Minister of State for International Trade, Nigel Huddleston MP, and Shadow Minister for Exports, Afzal Khan MP.
They heard about recent survey data from the BCC that found:
• The UK’s picture on exports has been broadly static since the pandemic.
• In Q3 of 2023, half of all SME exporters (49%) saw no change in overseas sales, and a quarter (25%) reported a decrease.
• A larger proportion of SMEs are now regularly reporting decreased sales – with an average 10 percentage point rise since 2018.
• It is almost five years (Q4 2018) since the proportion of firms reporting increased sales was higher than 30% - it was 26% in Q3 2023.
Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said: “If our economy is to grow then we must export more, it’s as simple as that. But the pandemic, supply chain disruption, Brexit, non-tariff trade barriers and global headwinds have all made this more difficult over the past few years.
“Yet firms that trade overseas, grow faster, pay better, and are more resilient. If the UK wants to remain one of the world’s largest economies, then we need more firms selling goods and services internationally.
“Our Manifesto sets out a long-term strategy on the key areas where the Government must focus if it wants to hit its target of £1tn of exports.
“Trade is constantly developing and there are real opportunities for a global Britain to exploit new markets as technology advances, Net Zero takes hold and the geopolitical landscape shifts.
“We are already a world-leader when it comes to digital trade, and we must lean more heavily into the opportunities that will provide.
“We also need to build a strategy to protect the UK’s supply chains – the US, the EU and China are all investing £100bns in sustainable and low-carbon technology.
“We don’t have that kind of money, but we do have great strengths – services, renewable energy, green finance, engineering, professional services, cutting edge manufacturing, food and drink exports, and R&D.
“We need to work with politicians, diplomats and businesses to put in place a framework that makes use of all the advantages the UK has, to keep us at the top table. The BCC is forecasting economic growth of just 0.4% in 2023, more international trade is the key to boosting that.”
International Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “When businesses export, they’re more likely to succeed.
“UK exports are already on the rise – they were worth over £880 billion in the year to August 2023, up 15% in current prices on the previous year. We are the second largest exporter of services in the world and the fifth largest exporter of goods and services overall, up from sixth in 2021.
“It’s fantastic to see British businesses being recognised for their world-class goods and services – we want them to be as ambitious as possible in their exporting strategies and will give them the tools they need to do it.
“I’m proud of the work we’re doing to secure free trade agreements and remove trade barriers facing businesses, working closely with the BCC, and look forward to doing all we can to help British businesses export around the globe.”
Shadow Minister for Exports, Afzal Khan, MP, said: “After a difficult few years, with the pandemic, soaring inflation and high interest rates, businesses are desperate to turn things around, boost exports and improve the UK’s reputation as a great trading nation.
“Labour is committed to taking a leading role in driving exports, negotiating free trade agreements and making sure British businesses in every corner of the UK are seeing the economic benefits of better trading relationships.”
Rochelle Sommer, CO-CEO of WTA, said: “It is an exciting time for UK companies to enhance their international trade. Exporting is a great strategic tool for growth and can provide robustness to profit and loss, as it can minimise seasonal peaks and troughs and protect your growth strategy from pockets of economic downturn.
“As well as encouraging and supporting the £1tn export target, this manifesto is committed to the digitisation of supply chains, something we feel passionately about at WTA.
“This digitisation was one of the key drivers for our partnership with the BCC, as we feel digitisation is what turns supply chains from transactional parts of a business to strategic, and it’s where WTA can add the most value for our customers”.