Cross-government approach aims to boost exports

Posted on 19 Jan 2016 by Jonny Williamson

A new whole-of-government approach to boosting British exports delivered through a transformed UK Trade and Investment focused on priority markets and sectors, has been announced today by Trade Minister Lord Maude.

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) will be at the centre of this new approach, overseeing and co-ordinating export performance on behalf of the Cross-Government Exports Implementation Taskforce, led by Business Secretary Sajid Javid.

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Javid commented: “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.”

Trade Minister Lord Maude explained: “To move the needle on exports and meet our commitments we need to do things differently.

“We want to make the UK the easiest country in the world to do trade with by making it easier, faster and simpler for more UK businesses to start exporting, generating a more vibrant export support marketplace, and giving more financial support to exporters.

“We will co-ordinate the energies of the whole of government on boosting exports, sharing responsibility across departments, harnessing their deep sector knowledge, focusing on priority targets, and monitoring progress closely.”

  • To increase the value of exports, UKTI will concentrate resources on those markets and sectors in which the UK is or can be a strong competitor. It will also bring together the best of public and private sector experience to develop targeted export campaigns connecting international demand to UK supply. As part of this process, UKTI will locate sector experts in other mainstream government departments during early 2016, including the creation of a Great British Food Unit based in DEFRA.  This will better leverage specialist knowledge and existing relationships with business, and join up policy and operational delivery.
  • A redesigned UKTI HQ will serve as a strategic hub supporting this activity, allocating resources against priorities, and monitoring and evaluating progress against plans. Performance will be focused on measuring the volume and value of exports delivered.
  • To increase the number of exporters, UKTI is focusing on transforming its digital service, using new technology to meet the needs of more businesses and increase cost efficiencies. The five-year Exporting is GREAT marketing campaign launched in November to drive up the number of new exporters is one part of this work, and has already generated more than 4,750 applications for export opportunities. In addition, having consulted UK businesses to find out what they need to help boost their exports, UKTI is now developing a single digital platform to help businesses find the export information, support, and advice they need, be it from government or private sector providers.
  • New Practical and Financial Support for Businesses: UKTI will develop a suite of new practical and direct support products and services, based on best practice and learning from competitor countries’ export promotion agencies. Over the coming months, UKTI will pilot these services and products to ensure they adequately reflect businesses’ needs.

Where export services can be provided by the private sector, with no or little value provided by government’s involvement, the Government ultimately intends to exit that market and will focus instead on fostering an invigorated private sector export support marketplace.

UKTI will continue to provide a range of cross-sector support including enhanced support for trade missions and fairs, GREAT marketing and events, and access to on-demand export opportunities.

Work by the FCO and other departments that support exports will continue, including working within the European Union to encourage the negotiation and implementation of Free Trade Agreements.

UKTI will continue to lead government efforts to attract £1.5tn in foreign direct investment.

Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.
Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.

Commenting on today’s announcement, chief economist at EEF, Lee Hopley said: “There is much that manufacturers will be pleased with in today’s announcements about making the UK the easiest country in the world to do trade with.

“This includes a clear commitment to back exporters with a host of new trade envoys and a cross-government approach to deliver increased exports, with all relevant government departments now expected to pull their weight.

“That said, the restructuring of UKTI offers cause for caution. As changes to support are implemented, this must be done with the needs of companies in mind; it cannot just be a move to deliver austerity. The frequent restructuring that has already taken place at UKTI undermines awareness of support and could counteract the positive moves in other areas. Piloting is therefore a sensible approach.”