The new organisation is needed urgently “if the UK is serious about turning its export performance around in a meaningful way”, the CBI has told the Business Innovation and Skills (BiS) government department in a submission to its inquiry into exports and the role of the export body UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).
‘Long-term export targets’
The Exports Commission would function in a similar to the Low Pay Commission, or the recently established Infrastructure Commission, for exports. “Critically, it would bring together businesses – from multinationals to growing MSBs [mid-sized businesses] and first time exporters – economists, and a cross-party bench of politicians to give independent advice to the government on long-term export targets and the policies needed to deliver them,” said the CBI.
Two other key recommendations included launching a one-stop-shop of government support and advice for exporters on a single, easily navigable website and agreeing a clear division of responsibilities, learning from US cities, ahead of further devolution of export support to regions and nations.
More than a quarter (28%) of MSBs – said to be the UK’s prime potential exporters – were put off selling their goods and services overseas because of the difficulty in identifying the right opportunities, said the CBI.
‘Export performance has struggled’
CBI international director Simon Moore 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, together with a joined-up approach to export policy and support across government will lead to more firms, particularly growing ones, moving their goods and services around the globe, said Moore.
CBI Export Commission recommendations
• One-stop-shop of government support and advice for exporters on a single, easily navigable website.
• Agree clear division of responsibilities, learning from US cities before further devolution of export support to regions and nations
• Create two new export finance products to plug the gap in trade finance for small and MSB exporters
• Protect the ‘sharp end’ of business support overseas – provided by British embassies and the Foreign and 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