Export Week is five days of intensive activity taking place all over the UK. In the North East we will be engaging in the sectors we are strong in: automotive, pharmaceutical and chemical, as well as the sectors for which the region has a rapidly growing profile: digital and life sciences.
Fundamentally, the aim of the week is to encourage more SMEs to be engaged in the export agenda.
The export agenda is a national government priority. Prime Minister David Cameron is paying personal interest to it and led the first Northern Powerhouse trade mission last June to Singapore and Malaysia.
There’s also a lot of empirical data that suggests that exporters tend to be able to ride business risk better, be better innovators and learning organisations, and – as a consequence of all of that – they tend to be more profitable.
The North East has been a net exporter for several years, meaning it exports more than it imports. We have a lot of companies punching well above their weight internationally and we’re delighted with that. But we do want to see more businesses on the international journey. Across the North East and the Tees Valley we have around 1500 companies that are regularly exporting but when you think that there are around 70,000 SMEs based in the region, there could be many more.
The UKTI covers about 97 per cent of the world’s GDP and has offices around the world. We can work with UK companies to establish sales pipelines and help guarantee orders. UKTI also arranges a number of trade missions around the globe. We’ve recently been in the UAE, China and South Africa.
In addition, we help with the cultural differences that can arise when trading in different countries. What we think is important when developing a business relationship, may not be as important to a company in another country. It’s important to know the market and that country’s customs. UKTI has a language and culture adviser who can support companies and prepare them for trading overseas.
Exporting is GREAT week is, of course, a great place to start and find out more about how to trade products and services internationally. We would then encourage a business owner or director to contact the UKTI, either via the website or our hotline. We will then assign them a trade adviser who will help them develop an export strategy, free of charge. We can also help with companies who are already exporters but looking to expand into new markets.
This year, we’re asking North East businesses to look further afield to see what other market opportunities are out there.
Europe is still a strong and positive market for the North East, with around 50 per cent of our exports going to the Continent. But Europe has had a difficult time of late.
We want North East business to look outside of Europe to South America and the ASEAN region [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] which includes Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
The e-commerce agenda is another key area that we are pushing and we’ve recently appointed an e-commerce adviser for the North East to educate businesses to not just look at the Ebay platform but all of the other international selling platforms as well.
We have national Government targets to create an extra 100,000 exporters in the UK by 2020. In the North East, we want to at least double the amount of exporters in the region and will work with companies based here to address their specific requirements.
But the UKTI North East can’t do this alone. We need the help and support of local businesses. We also want to create more partnership activity this year to help us with trade missions, trade fairs, exhibitions, conferences, buyer events, inward missions and foreign media visits. We’re especially looking for business and trade associations, banks, intermediaries, accountants and lawyers to help us take the international agenda forward in the North East.