‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’

On 17th November 2021, the Department for International Trade published its new export strategy, titled: ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’. The strategy is described as a “business-facing 12-point action plan to support new and existing exporters”.

It includes an overview of the long-awaited successor to the Tradeshow Access Programme, an issue that the MIA lobbied extensively on in the second half of 2021. It also aims to place the UK on a trajectory to achieving the Government’s new £1tn exports target by 2030. Whilst this sounds impressive, it is worth noting that in 2012 David Cameron pledged to meet the same figure by 2020. The fact UK exports stood at just £689bn in 2019 shows the scale of the challenge ahead.

The plan should also be viewed against the backdrop of the Spending Review 2021, which sets departmental budgets up to 2024-25. In November’s settlement, the Department for International Trade (DIT) will see a £67.6 million cash increase over the Parliament. As a percentage of Departmental Expenditure Limits, this amounts to a 0.1% rise, one of the smallest increases across Whitehall.

This is arguably reflected in the strategy’s lack of substance. Whilst the plan is laced with good ideas, it doesn’t include the support you’d expect in what is supposedly a central pillar of Boris Johnson’s ‘Global Britain’ vision. Instead, a significant portion of the strategy is designed to iron out wrinkles created by Brexit, with firms struggling to navigate the extra costs and regulations involved in EU trade.

Alongside reviving exports to the continent, the Government will hope the measures announced  help British businesses capture a bigger slice of the world’s growth markets. Although somewhat lacking in ambition, they are at least underpinned by the ‘main challenges’ identified by UK exporters in a DIT survey, which cited costs, regulatory hurdles, a lack of knowledge, or gaining access to the right contacts, customers, or networks as the main obstacles to selling overseas.

While a significant chunk of departmental expenditure will be allocated to the digital transformation of DIT’s export support services to cover all markets, grants have been pared back. Firms can access the Internationalisation Fund, which can be used for almost anything trade related, yet does require firms to fund a proportion of the costs themselves. The support scheme to help businesses wanting to attend trade shows has also been tightened, excluding businesses turning over less than £250,000 annually, as well as firms who’ve exported before.

To see the Export Strategy in detail, you can view & download the 12-Point Plan here
(The 12 points are laid out on page 17)

Want to know more?

On Friday, our zoom drop-in session is a chance to speak directly with a representative from the Department for International Trade. Find out more and register to attend here

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