Export review urges Minister of Trade in Cabinet to boost overseas earnings

Britain’s exporting businesses should be supported by a Minister of Trade who sits in Cabinet, according to the interim findings from an independent commission asked by the Labour party to look into into how government help develop Britain’s overseas trade.

Businesses on the export trail need backing of a Minister of Trade says interim findings of Cole Commission

The review into unlocking the UK’s export potential by AugustaWestland chairman Graham Cole said that “current arrangements in Cabinet and across Whitehall are simply failing to give the export agenda the urgent attention it requires”.

Current targets are to double UK exports to £1tr by 2020 but that target is still along way off, according to the review. And “a joined up approach across Whitelhall is desperately needed”.

British Chambers of Commerce should be used as the appropriate channel for SME support leaving UKTI/UKEF to focus on the “high end, big ticket ventures”

Cole recommends in his interim findings that the next government “turn up the dial on exports” by the Prime Minister chairing a cabinet committee dedicated to exports and by the appointment of a senior, elected Minister of Trade who would attend Cabinet and be subject to scrutiny by a newly formed Commons select committee on international trade.

Cole also wants to see UKTI and finance body UKEF brought together under one roof to be overseen by the Trade Minister. “This would ensure Whitehall has a central hub from which to co-ordinate and drive the export agenda across government.”

SMEs need to be encouraged and supported to export more, the review said and it criticised the “scattergun approach to government support, resulting in many SMEs not knowing where to seek help, or that help is even available.

Cole suggested that the British Chambers of Commerce should be used as the appropriate channel for SME support leaving UKTI/UKEF to focus on the “high end, big ticket ventures”.

He floated the idea that public authorities could take a lead in developing Britain’s supply chains and their export potential by “making an export plan, including for SMEs, mandatory in all public procurement bids that have export potential”.

Cole also wants government to review the system of post-work study visas to reverse the downward trend in overseas students chosing to study in the UK.

The interim review was welcomed by British Expertise International which as part of the D Group aims to maximise trade and investment opportunities for British industry and services around the world.

“We are encouraged by the interim report’s recommendation for an enhanced cross-Whitehall approach to export issues, with the Minister of Trade attending cabinet,” said chief executive Tracey Smith.

"A number of UK government agencies provide excellent support to UK companies working internationally, but there is a great need for improved awareness and co-ordination. 

We would hope that an incoming Government would effectively support and utilise the vast knowledge and export experience held within organisations such as our own . The UK is awash with export experience but the value of our exports will only be able to increase if a properly enabling environment can be created, with a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship developed between the public and private sector."

The final findings of the Cole Commission are due after the General Election.

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