A new initiative by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) marks a step-change in the government’s support for exporters and investors. As never before, Britain is open for business.
Unveiled in May, the strategy is at the heart of the government’s ambitious campaign to promote growth through trade and investment. It also sets out plans for practical support for UK firms wanting to venture overseas, and for foreign ones eyeing investment opportunities in the UK.
The UKTI effort is being complemented by the seven-point Charter for Business that has been created by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, underlining the government’s “joined-up approach to growth”.The trade and investment office’s strategy outlines four pathways designed to work in tandem and achieve balanced, sustainable growth, and to help develop new models of collaboration that include new peer-to-peer software for British exporters.
As well, there will be a renewed focus on partnerships with the private sector in order to boost productivity and improve performance.
We at UKTI have an impressive track record: during fiscal 2009–10 we helped some 23,600 UK firms. They went on to add an estimated £5bn to their profits, up £3.6bn year-on-year.
In addition, our services helped create new jobs and safeguard existing ones at 41% of these firms, 53% of which said their improved business was a direct result of UKTI trade services.
Announcing the Britain Open for Business campaign, Trade and Investment Minister Lord Stephen Green identified the four key elements.
• First, services will target small and medium-sized enterprises that are innovative and show high growth potential, in order to encourage more of them to export their products and services. This will be coupled with assistance for existing exporters, so that they can grow and access more emerging markets.
• Second, the scheme will aim to win new and valuable opportunities in overseas markets for British businesses of all sizes.
• Third, it will attract inward investment by marketing major British infrastructure and regeneration projects to foreign investors.
• Fourth, it will help to build strategic relationships at the highest levels: with the most significant inward investors, including overseas institutions such as sovereign wealth funds, as well as with Britain’s top exporters and major overseas buyers.
“Britain’s future prosperity will be built on business success in international markets, so trade and investment must be at the heart of the government’s foreign and economic policies”, said Lord Green.
The strategy preserves previous successful UKTI programmes, such as Passport to Export and Gateway to Global Growth, he said, and will expand the Global Entrepreneurs’ Programme. It is not, however, a “business as usual” strategy and recognises that UKTI needs a new focus for new times.
“The new strategy is also a ‘living’ strategy,” he added. “As well as setting a clear direction for travel, it takes a flexible approach to accommodate the inevitable changes we will encounter along the road to 2016 and beyond.
“The strategy aims to take UKTI to another level”, Lord Green said. “To make it more entrepreneurial, collaborative, transparent and accountable”.
The scheme is the next step in the process laid down by Trade and Investment for Growth, a white paper published by the government in February, that sets out the strategy for rebalancing the economy—until now built on unsustainable levels of borrowing and spending.
Businesses and business organisations have welcomed the proposals.
“Britain’s recovery and long-term economic prosperity depend on improving our international trading position, so we welcome these measures to put trade, investment and growth at the heart of UK foreign policy”, said David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
“Besides attracting inward investment, UK firms, particularly small and medium-sized ones, must be encouraged to sell more goods and services overseas”, he said. “The focus on trade promotion for SMEs will be crucial to connecting smaller businesses with opportunities in the global marketplace”.
John Walker, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), endorsed that position, saying it would “go some way to encouraging new firms to enter the export arena”.
“Almost a quarter of the FSB members currently export, and a further 12% would consider exporting in the future”, he said. “For many small firms, the challenges of finding customers and the red tape around doing business abroad is a major concern and today’s announcement will help small businesses lead an export-led recovery”.
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