New body to set targets

CBI urges creation of commission to boost UK’s exports

Port of Grangemouth
Port of Grangemouth

Business leaders are calling for the establishment of an independent, national Exports Commission to help boost the country’s overseas sales performance.

The CBI says such a body is required “if Britain is serious about turning its export performance around in a meaningful way”.

In a new report, Best in Class, the CBI proposes the creation of a body similar to the Low Pay Commission, or the recently established Infrastructure Commission, for exports.

Critically, it would bring together businesses – from multinationals to growing medium sized businesses and first time exporters – together with economists, and politicians to give independent advice to the Government on long-term export targets and the policies needed to deliver them.

The report compares the policies and structures that other countries – from the United States and Singapore, to Sweden and Germany – have implemented to improve their exporting track record. Other key recommendations include:

  • A “one stop shop” of joined-up Government support and advice for exporters on a single, easily navigable website. 28% of medium-sized businesses (MSBs) – the UK’s prime potential exporters – are put off selling their goods and services overseas because of the difficulty in identifying the right opportunities
  • Agreement of a clear division of responsibilities, learning from cities in the USA, before any further devolution of export support to regions and nations.

Simon Moore, CBI international director, said:Britain’s robust economic recovery has been the envy of many of our international peers, but our export performance has struggled to keep up the pace.

“It’s vital that our future prosperity is not compromised by political point-scoring. An independent, national Exports Commission, bringing together for the first time exporters and politicians to create targets and policies, would provide firms with long-term certainty over Government policy and put business feedback at the heart of decisions over future priorities.

“A more commercially focussed UKTI, coupled with a joined-up approach to export policy and support right across Government – which we have long called for – will lead to more firms, especially growing ones, moving their goods and services around the globe.”

Other measures the CBI recommends include:

  • Creating two new export finance products to plug the gap in trade finance for small and MSB exporters
  • Protecting the “sharp end” of business support overseas – provided by British embassies and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – focusing savings instead on streamlining support in Whitehall
  • More innovative collaboration between UKTI and businesses to improve the commercial awareness of UKTI staff, and foster knowledge sharing between them.

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