Help at hand for nervous exporters

A new survey shows SMEs are still wary of overseas trading. Could measures published by the Government last week help them?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2011
If there’s one policy where the Government can’t be accused of shirking, it’s export: since he came to power, David Cameron has run trade missions to both India and China, and created a number of committees to try and get businesses exporting. But a new survey has found that so far, those measures haven’t been enough, at least for smaller firms: more than a quarter of SMEs said regulatory, legal and political systems in the markets they trade with are a barrier to progress. But the Government introduced a raft of new measures last week which were designed to make export easier. Will they be enough?

Of the 500 businesses financial and professional services group CityUK spoke to, 17% said they’re worried that cultural and language barriers will get in their way, while 23% said they’re more worried about exchange rates. And another 22% were worried about too much red tape abroad. Which just goes to show that wherever you’re doing business, bureaucracy is always an issue…

Crucially for the Government, businesses said that while overseas rules might seem daunting, measures in this country are just as off-putting. For example, 16% of potential exporters say there isn’t enough access to finance, while 15% say there’s inadequate information on markets and competition, and 17% say the support they receive in the UK isn’t effective.

Hopefully, that should change in the next few months, after the Coalition published a Trade and Investment White Paper last week. The measures it included will provide state-guaranteed loans to back exporters, with an extension of the Export Credit Guarantee scheme for those sending goods outside the OECD and EU. It’s good timing, as well; last week, we reported the trade deficit had widened to £4.83bn in December, its highest level since 2005.

The CityUK CEO Chris Cummings says the Government’s white paper came at a ‘critical time’ for UK businesses, since ‘our economic recovery depends on SMEs accessing new markets’. So it’s nice to see that in the eyes of business, the Government at least has the right intentions. The challenge now is for it to deliver on its promises.

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