BCCJ Event November 2014

Member Knowhow for Export Success

How the BCCJ is working with the UK government

Members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) can have a positive influence on helping the UK government reach its export targets by providing support to British firms trying to enter the market here.

Speaking at a BCCJ luncheon on 20 October, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCCJ), said members were the perfect solution to helping British businesses export to Japan.

Longworth pointed to three main factors that make members a real asset to UK firms: their knowledge and experience of the market; contacts in both the supply chain and potential customer base; and ability to find professional help when required.

“There are no better people to help UK businesses than those sitting round the boardroom tables of the chambers of commerce”, he said.

According to Longworth, no one understands trade better than chambers; hence the BCC’s involvement in a scheme to boost British exports: the Overseas Business Network initiative (OBNi).

Initially a pilot project developed in partnership with UK Trade & Investment and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, it was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.

Having received political and financial support following its initial success, OBNi is now a mainstream part of government. It is delivering on targets to double the UK’s annual exports to £1trn and increase the number of UK exporters to 100,000 by 2020.

Central to the project is the cooperation of British business groups around the world with the government, to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK in their bid to do business globally in high-growth, hard-to-access markets—of which Japan is considered one.

To encourage exports, the initiative offers market information, support and advice, intelligence on new business opportunities and a global business network.

Another factor that has undoubtedly changed the business landscape in the UK is London 2012, according to fellow speaker Peter Bishop, deputy chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Bishop said the influence of the Games was very real, with their economic impact in 2012–2020 estimated at between £38bn and £60bn.

While the regeneration of East London and establishment of Sports 4 All—an organisation offering visits by Olympic and professional athletes to schools across the UK to promote physical activity—are some of the Games’ more apparent successes, the development of the trade and investment agenda is an important legacy of London 2012.

“We are making sure that all those businesses that were involved in London 2012—either in front of, or behind the scenes are able to take their story round the world to other markets where things of a similar or smaller size are happening”, said Bishop.

To date, firms have spent a considerable amount of time in Brazil in connection with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Bishop said he has no doubt the chamber will be helping British firms work in Japan, too.

Historic pact
Aiming to deepen its relationships with Japanese organisations and firms to secure business openings for UK firms in connection with the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, the BCCJ signed an agreement to join OBNi on 27 October.

The ceremony was witnessed by invited members of the BCCJ, representatives of Japanese business, including from the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Livingston.

UKTI will initially provide seed funding, with the initiative ultimately becoming self-sustaining.

Speaking at the signing, Ambassador to Japan Tim Hitchens CMG LVO said the BCCJ is “a highly effective partner”.

“This agreement will allow [the British Embassy Tokyo and the BCCJ] to intensify our collaboration and leverage of London 2012. I am convinced it will ensure that we maximise the opportunities for British business as Japan prepares for its own major sporting events”, he concluded.