UK must think global to fulfil its economic potential

15th July 2014

British Chambers of Commerce Director General, John Longworth, will be speaking at the International Festival of Business today BCC publishes the results of its international trade survey highlighting the barriers facing UK exporters The British Chambers of Commerce is today (Tuesday) publishing the results of a major international trade survey, looking at the barriers facing existing and potential UK exporters.

Made up of responses from more than 4,700 businesses, the results show that while the majority of firms have ambitions to grow domestically, less than half are looking to expand their business overseas. BCC Director General, John Longworth, urges more UK businesses to 'look beyond our shores' and calls for increased support for both existing and potential exporters so the UK can fulfil its true potential as a leading export nation. Key findings from the survey: More businesses need to 'think global' While 90% of businesses have ambitions to grow domestically, less than half of firms (43%) have ambitions to grow internationally. More than half of current exporters (55%) said they recorded a positive impact on their bottom line within just 12 months of expanding into new markets abroad. 75% of exporters have traded internationally for more than five years, while new exporters (0-2 years) only account for 11% of current exporters. Current exporters are breaking into fast-growing markets Europe and Asia remain the most popular export regions for UK businesses. Of the additional 21 'high-growth markets' identified by UK Trade and Investment (41 in total) Japan, Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Hungary are perceived as providing the greatest opportunities for growth in the next five years. 52% of current exporters are currently exporting to one of these 'high-growth markets'. Market access and size are influential factors for potential exporters The majority of firms (79%) say the most influential factor when considering exporting is the ease of finding customers, agents and distributors. More than six out of ten (68%) non-exporters still say they do not have the right product or service for export. Increased funding (25%) and access to overseas agents and distributors (24%) are identified as key factors that would encourage non-exporting businesses to export for the first time. More businesses need to be proactive in looking for export opportunities Nearly half (48%) of businesses are 'reactive' exporters only supplying overseas customers when they receive unsolicited orders. There are more than twice as many reactive exporters as there are proactive exporters (22%) businesses that adapt their product or service to specifically target overseas markets. Commenting on the findings, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: -It's understandable that less than half of the businesses we surveyed have ambitions to grow internationally, but it proves that we need to do more as a nation to take the fear out of exporting. I speak to businesses that have full order books here in the UK and don't see why they would need to take their goods and services overseas. To transform businesses' domestic mindset, we need to create an environment that makes it worthwhile for them to export. "If we in Britain are serious about rebalancing our economy, we must invest even more in supporting and promoting international trade. The UK should be matching the level of resourcing dedicated to export support provided by our major international competitors. And government intervention must be more focused in areas that can really make a difference, such as providing greater access to finance to growing firms particularly when a quarter of non-exporters say that increased funding would encourage them to export. -We at the BCC are proud to be doing our bit, by working in partnership with UK Trade and Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop and accredit British Chambers and business groups in 41 high-growth countries worldwide. This partnership is providing British companies entering new markets with practical advice, support and new business connections each and every day. We are also working with UK Export Finance to link more SMEs to their growing export finance offer. -But we need to be even more radical. Only a concerted national campaign and sustained investment will get more UK firms to look beyond our shores for growth opportunities. Otherwise, our ability to rebalance the economy will be limited."

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