A ten-point action plan, which includes the creation of a new UK Trade Committee chaired by the Prime Minister, is being launched today as part of a major new report.
The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) has published a Policy Platform paper that is designed to be a blueprint on how the country can maximise its first independent trade policy opportunity in 45 years.
Director General Marco Forgione is calling for trade and export policy to become an integral consideration in domestic economic strategy, so that businesses see a clear direction of travel, understand the priorities, know where they can get effective and well-resourced support, and have confidence in a stable policy and regulatory environment.
The ten recommendations are spearheaded by the creation of a UK Trade Committee led by the Prime Minister to give it greater focus and authority, the provision of simple integrated support tools for businesses and the importance of linking policy to wider industrial and regional levelling-up strategies.
There are also calls to prioritise urgent EU trade transition support to overcome initial issues around Brexit and to continue striking and indeed capitalising on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in markets where the UK has volumes of trade and potential for expansion.
“Now that the UK has left the EU, businesses face new challenges in a new trade relationship with our nearest and largest market,” explained Marco.
“But with this comes a once in a generation opportunity to lead by example in rebuilding support for multilateral trade rules, resisting protectionist impulses and using trade policy to achieve environmental, health and social goals.”
He continued: “The way in which government exploits its new-found freedoms, how it secures wide ranging trade agreements and its ability to forge meaningful trading partnerships will influence how we reshape the UK’s economy as we ‘build back better’ from the impacts of Covid-19.
“Our ten-point action plan will create an environment which supports international trade and inspires more business leaders to export.”
Established in 1935, the Institute of Export and International Trade is one of the leading authorities on exporting in the UK, supporting almost 3000 companies every year.
The Policy Platform, which has the backing of Minister for Exports Graham Stuart, highlights that trade really matters and will be crucial to driving life after Brexit and Covid-19.
The pandemic has made it even more necessary for business and government to realise untapped potential from the economy and, like countries all over the world, the UK faces significant headwinds.
Even before the virus, the pace of global trade liberalisation was slowing amid tensions between the major trading nations and blocs and a trend towards economic nationalism.
Rapid technological change is altering the nature of trade, presenting previously unimagined opportunities, but also calling for new regulation and creating potential barriers.
The falling percentage of SMEs who export is one genuine point of concern and is down from 50% of total export output in 2008 to just 32% a decade later.
This suggests that there is room for improvement and drives IOE&IT recommendations to improve the Export Finance Offer (especially for small to medium-sized companies) and to encourage further development of the Trade Commissioners network to reflect changing priorities and growing markets in Asia, Africa and South America.
Marco continued: “2021 is a massive year for the UK. We are now an independent member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), we hold the presidency of the G7 and will host COP26 in Glasgow in November.
“There will never be an opportunity like this again and we should be using these multilateral fora to champion national priorities, particularly free trade and linking trade with the need for robust commitments to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions.
“Through close collaboration between government and business there is an opportunity to build broad political, industry and public support for an ambitious new export agenda.”
Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Exports, concludes in his foreword: “We will continue to work closely together as the Covid-19 crisis abates, helping to ensure businesses are able to seize the new international opportunities before them.
“I am confident that if we set the stage for UK businesses and exporters to unleash their potential, we can drive a resilient economic recovery levelling up the country, and meet our ambition of an open, outward looking, truly Global Britain.”
To download the IOE&IT Policy Paper, please visit www.export.org.uk