Now I’m a trade minister I have become acutely aware of the demand for British goods and the enormous opportunities that exist across the globe for British exports.
Interestingly, the biggest export market for the UK is actually the US where we also export around £33 billion more than we import, so the EU is not the whole story.
But it really doesn’t matter who we trade with, only that we do so, and that we increase our exports and get more and more business involved here in Hampshire and across the UK.
But why export? Well, there are often higher margins when a company does so, even taking into account tariffs, and international competition improves quality and productivity and with proper planning, export markets can open up quickly, so there are clearly plus points.
However, the UK needs to do better, particularly in the area of small businesses exporting. According to 2016 figures from the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills only 10 % of registered small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) export and 17% are involved in export supply chains.
The reason, historically at least, was that some businesses, both large and small, have lacked knowledge and the expertise to do so.
However, this is not the case anymore as a recent local event at Exton Park Vineyard in Corhampton very much showcased.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) South East event talked about why it is beneficial to export, the various issues companies have when they do so and the different organisations that can provide support.
And there is considerable support, both here and overseas, to help SMEs export anywhere they want.
For starters, DIT has a network of International Trade Advisers (ITAs) across the south east. They work with a company to provide advice and mentoring. The department also has over 1,400 staff based in 108 countries. These teams can provide advice and help in-market.
Online services also abound with www.great.gov.uk a good place to start with topics such as ‘I’m new to exporting’ and guidance on how to get paid, not to mention a list of export opportunities where a business can just enter a key word to get a feel for demand.
Hampshire Chamber of Commerce is a great source of advice and runs events, training courses and offers a range of international trade services including export documentation services. Solent Local Enterprise Partnership also has grants available to help fund business expansion for export.
Importantly, the Government has UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK’s export credit guarantee department. It helps UK companies to win export contracts by providing attractive financing terms to their buyers, fulfil contracts by supporting working capital loans and ensures companies get paid by insuring against buyer default.
On top of this, banks offer a range of services and Wedad - the export finance manager at UK Export Finance - provide free and impartial consultations.
More companies exporting means more jobs, more investment, more wealth creation and more opportunities for travel and understanding different cultures. There can be risks but the pros outweigh the cons.