BCC International Trade Survey shows more Government support needed for UK exporters

09 Feb 2011

 Survey of 8,000 companies shows the majority (nearly 70%) aren’t current or likely exporters

  • Among exporting companies, 15% still face difficulties accessing trade finance and insurance
  • 65% of businesses surveyed were unaware of the Government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) 

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) today announced the results of its International Trade and Exporting Survey, ahead of the Government’s highly-anticipated trade white paper and the figures tracking the UK’s international trade performance.

The survey shows a lack of exporting culture among British firms and the need for more Government support. A large number of businesses are unable or unwilling to tap overseas markets and many current exporters continue to face difficulties financing international deals.

  • Exporters vs. non-exporters: of 8,000 companies surveyed from across the UK, approximately a third (2,500) were current, recent, or likely future exporters.
  • Non-exporters: of over 5,500 non-exporting companies, nearly three-quarters (71%) thought they had unsuitable products and services, a fifth (19%) believed they had sufficient business in the UK market, nearly 10% said they lacked ‘the resources to make it happen’, and almost 10% said  they would need help finding overseas customers. This suggests that many businesses are still unable or unwilling to consider potential export opportunities.
  • Trade finance: for exporting companies, trade finance and insurance still remain hard to come by. Of 1,800 respondents, nearly a third (29%) used some form of trade finance. However, half of all trade finance users had difficulty securing the financing they needed and said there had been little improvement during the last year.
  • Assistance needed: of over 2,500 current and likely exporters, a third (34%) want Government help dealing with foreign exchange fluctuations, a quarter (28%) need support with working capital and short-term trade credit insurance, and a fifth (19%) are looking for assistance with contract bonds, which are often required when a company tenders for work overseas.
  • Government support: the survey shows that any Government financing support for SMEs announced in the trade white paper must be accompanied by a strong publicity and information campaign. Of all businesses surveyed, 65% were unaware of the existence of the UK’s official export credit agency, the Export Credit Guarantee Department. Even 90% of those companies that do export have never applied for or used its services – suggesting that ECGD’s current products do not reach critical SME markets.

Commenting on the BCC survey and the Government’s forthcoming Trade White Paper, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Our survey reveals some uncomfortable truths for British business and for the Government about our ability to export.

“Too many of our companies lack an exporting culture, even though they produce high quality goods and services. We cannot rebalance Britain’s economy when so many companies say they’re simply not ready or able to take their products overseas.

”Despite its rhetoric, the Government is not yet doing enough to encourage and incentivise exporting. The UK doesn’t provide enough help to small- and medium-sized exporters, whereas Governments in Canada, Germany, France and the USA take more steps to make sure their companies succeed overseas.

“The Government’s trade white paper must include some radical moves to get Britain exporting. Unless we see more help for small companies seeking trade finance, which the BCC has insisted on for three years now, the UK will continue to see hundreds of millions of pounds of lost business.

“At the same time, ministers must also take this opportunity to commit to greater trade promotion, which is as essential to Britain’s economy as the NHS.”

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