International trade secretary Liam Fox has set out a plan to make Britain a "21st century exporting superpower".
The new Export Strategy aims to increase UK total exports as a proportion of GDP to 35%. Last year, £620 billion of goods and services were exported by British companies, accounting for 30% of the UK's GDP. The Department for International Trade estimates that 400,000 businesses believe they could export but don't.
The new Export Strategy will:
- Encourage and inspire businesses to export by getting more exporters to share their expertise and provide peer-to-peer learning;
- Inform businesses by providing advice and practical assistance on exporting via the great.gov.uk website;
- Connect UK businesses to overseas buyers, markets and each other;
- Provide up to £50 billion worth of export finance and insurance support via UKEF.
Baroness Fairhead, minister of state for trade and export promotion at the Department of International Trade, said: "As the world's sixth largest exporter, we do punch above our weight, however, we also punch below our potential. This Export Strategy sets out to change that and to increase exports as a proportion of GDP from 30% to 35%, taking us from the middle of the G7 to near the top. This is ambitious, but achievable."
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said: "The CBI strongly supports the ambition to make exports 35% of GDP, which will put the UK out in front of many of our international competitors. We estimate that in every region of the country there are around 10% of businesses that could export, but don't, and we look forward to working alongside the Government to support and inspire them to seize the opportunity."
Other business groups have also welcomed the initiative. Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: "Maximising trade opportunities across the globe will be key to the UK's future economic success, so we welcome this new Export Strategy, which provides a solid foundation upon which to build."
However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the Government can still do more. Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: "The Government's Export Strategy is strong on aspiration … However, it's concerning to see a lack of definitive, detailed interventions … we welcome the emphasis on the great.gov.uk platform, peer-to-peer learning and better joined-up support … but, we now need to see much more being done to encourage smaller businesses to access both new markets and business support.
"Incentives like export vouchers and grants should be made available to small businesses to help them with upfront investment costs for things like translation services or additional market research."