Exporting is getting a makeover with the launch of a new slogan, new logo and more importantly a new 12-point plan to help the UK reach £1 Trillion in exports from every part of the country. This incremental development of the 2018 Export Strategy has 4 key aims:
- Encourage and inspire businesses that can export but have not yet, or have just started.
- Inform by providing information, advice, and practical assistance.
- Connect exporters to potential buyers and markets.
- Finance will be central to the offer.
There is much to like in this new policy, but for me the key ambition is that Exporting should become a natural part of business, not something that is tacked on as an afterthought. This is a message I have expounded for years and raised regularly in the development of the previous export strategy. One of my key mantras is that “Exporting is just Selling”; it should be natural for businesses to consider selling to new markets regardless of whether they are in the UK or not. Education is critical to this and the Export Academies will be expanded, but it should be on the syllabus of every business studies course or degree.
Many businesses get into exporting without even realising it and once they do, can grow a substantial income stream. One of my favourite examples of this is my fellow Export Champion Maria Whitehead of Hawkshead Relish Company in the Lake District. Maria has a wonderful shop in the middle of Hawkshead and became an exporter when their online shop started to attract orders from far and wide. They now export across the world. Another exporter, just down the road from Maria is Windermere Lake Cruises; simply by targeting oversees visitors to the region, they have developed an export income for their lake cruises as part of the UK’s massive tourism sector.
Export Champions have an important role in the new strategy. The Export Champion movement, introduced into the North West of England as an initiative by the local office of the Department for International Trade in 2013, and having now expanded nationwide, is targeted for further development as part of the plan. Export Champions are companies, or their senior representatives who are experienced in exporting and are prepared to give up some of their time to talk to, inspire and offer practical advice. The original 37 Export Champions from the North West has now expanded to more than 400 nationwide. The newly announced plan envisages growing the role of this peer-to-peer network to help even more companies into exporting.The government will also be expanding the use of their international teams based in more than 180 markets and provide specialist support to high growth sectors. Trade show support will also receive a boost.
This Export Strategy is not a direct response to Brexit, and is certainly not just focused on the EU, but one aspect, ESS (Export Support Service) will provided end-to-end business support for businesses exporting to Europe, which remains a very important market. It aims to simplify processes, target specific issues and promote opportunities and support availability. Whilst Free Trade Agreements are an ongoing target, the absence of them, for instance with the USA, our largest trading partner, should never be seen as an impediment to trade.
Tariffs can be less of an obstacle than you might think and often less of a risk than currency fluctuations. The DIT is doing more in markets where there are no current Free Trade Agreements by breaking down trade barriers; 217 trade barriers in 74 countries were removed during 2020-21 alone. Many of the high growth markets in the coming years are in the Indo Pacific region, which perhaps explains the UK’s strong interest in joining the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) which accounts for 13% of global GDP. With 90% of world growth outside of the EU over the next 5 years and massive growth of middle class consumers in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the UK is understandably giving these regions a heavy focus.
The most direct and important area of support in the Export Strategy is financial. The new UK SME Export Support Fund will provide financial assistance to help businesses internationalise and export and UK Export Finance (UKEF) will continue to expand providing direct export credit support. The overall plan is well thought out, ambitious and well targeted. It leaves no excuses for those who have the potential to export not to start working on growing their businesses. Many will reap the benefits and perhaps become an Export Champion of the future.
Are you one of them?
Tony Goodman MBE is a successful exporter and has been doing so through a variety of different businesses. He is currently Marketing Advisor at Forest and Co who specialise in offering guidance on branding, exporting and sales: www.forestandco.com