International Trade - Breaking News

19th May 2017

BCC/DHL: Exporter confidence remains high, but exchange rates a concern

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with DHL, today (Friday) publishes its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which shows that confidence among UK exporters remains strong.

The number of businesses reporting improved export sales increased in the first quarter of 2017. Businesses in both manufacturing and services are also more confident that their turnover and profitability would increase in the coming 12 months.

The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 5.5% on the quarter – and is up 9.06% from the same quarter last year – standing at its second highest level on record.

The results show that businesses are continuing to trade despite political uncertainty, however currency fluctuations remain a concern. 52% of manufacturers and 25% of services firms say exchange rates are more of a concern to their business than three months ago.

To maintain momentum, and to help UK firms succeed beyond Brexit, the government should develop an expanded trade mission and fairs programme, help businesses build links with key trade partners and underpin deals, and expand funding for front-line assistance to exporters. Businesses will be looking for the next government to secure frictionless future trade arrangements with the EU, crucial to both importers and exporters, as well as to broker new relationships with emerging markets.

Key findings from the report:

  • The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 5.5% on the quarter. The Index now stands at 126.55 –up 9.06% on Q1 2016 – and is the second highest level since records began in 2004
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose from +16% to +26%. Looking at services, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales rose from +8% to +10%
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose from +13 to +22 in Q4 2016, while in services it fell slightly from +6% to +5%
  • Looking at expectations of turnover over the next 12 months, the balance of manufacturers confident of an increase held fairly steady, rising from +43% to +44%. In services this rose by four points from +35% to +39%
  • Confidence that profitability would improve rose to +28% for services companies – up from the +21% in Q4 2016. The balance of manufacturers jumped by ten points, from +22% to +32%

Commenting on the findings, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“Confidence among exporters is strong, which is a timely reminder that businesses are doing their best to ignore the cacophony of political noise around them and focus on the success of their own operations.

“While confidence among UK exporters is high, rising costs, recruitment difficulties, and concerns around currency fluctuations could temper their growth if allowed to continue unchecked. Alleviating the burden of upfront costs and addressing the skills gap would increase productivity, investment and growth.

“For UK exporters to succeed in the long-term, the next government must deliver not only a Brexit deal which allows for frictionless trade with Europe, but also pragmatic and practical support for businesses looking to develop lasting links with new customers and markets around the world.”

Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said:

“Despite the many unanswered questions about what a post-Brexit Britain will look like, this latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook demonstrates that UK exporters remain optimistic about what the future holds.

“As a facilitator of international trade, we’ve seen our customers embrace the short term benefits that came with the fall in the value of the pound. However, this report demonstrates that whilst businesses are confident, they are not complacent - with currency fluctuations a lingering concern for exporters. In these uncertain times, there is an even greater imperative to expand the portfolio of markets businesses trade with to help spread the risk across multiple currencies.”

For a copy of the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook please click here

28th February 2017

Chambers of Commerce: Put practicality, certainty at the heart of Brexit negotiations

As the Chamber Network gathers in Westminster for the BCC Annual Conference, the British Chambers of Commerce has today (Tuesday) published a business blueprint for the UK government ahead of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Titled Business Brexit Priorities, the report synthesizes feedback from over 400 businesses at 16 Chamber-hosted focus groups, along with nearly 20,000 responses to Chamber surveys. It puts forward priorities for action across seven key areas where business communities want practical solutions and certainty.

BCC evidence confirms that Europe will remain a key market for UK exporters and importers well into the future. As a consequence, it is imperative that the government achieves a pragmatic UK-EU deal that facilitates continued trade.

The key recommendations in the report are:

  • On the Labour Market, the government should provide certainty for businesses on the residence rights of their existing EU workers, provide clarity on hiring from EU countries during the negotiation period, and avoid expensive and bureaucratic processes for post-Brexit hires from the EU
  • On Trade, the government should aim to minimise tariffs, seek to avoid costly non-tariff barriers, grandfather existing EU free trade agreements with third countries, and expand the trade mission programme
  • On Customs, the government should develop future customs procedures at the UK border in partnership with business, seek to maintain the UK’s position as an entry point for global businesses to Europe
  • On Tax, the government should guarantee that HMRC is appropriately resourced to help businesses through the transition process, and provide clarity on whether VAT legislation will continue to mirror current core VAT principles
  • On Regulation, the government should ensure stability by incorporating existing EU regulations into UK law and maintaining these for a minimum period following Brexit, and ensure that product standards are aligned with, and recognised by, the EU to keep UK products competitive
  • On EU funding, the government should maintain UK access to the European Investment Bank, and ensure there is no funding ‘cliff-edge’ for areas in receipt of EU funding
  • On Northern Ireland, the government must avoid any return to a hard border, so that businesses can move people and goods as freely as possible.

Commenting on the report, Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“Business communities across the UK want practical considerations, not ideology or politics, at the heart of the government's approach to Brexit negotiations.

"What's debated in Westminster often isn't what matters for most businesses. Most firms care little about the exact process for triggering Article 50, but they care a lot about an unexpected VAT hit to their cash flow, sudden changes to regulation, the inability to recruit the right people for the job, or if their products are stopped by customs authorities at the border. The everyday nitty-gritty of doing business across borders must be front and centre in the negotiation process.

"What's also clear is that the eventual Brexit deal is far from the only thing on the minds of the UK's business communities. An ambitious domestic agenda for business and the economy is also essential so that business can drive our post-Brexit success. Firms across the UK want a clear assurance that Brexit isn't going to be the only thing on the government's economic agenda for the next few years."

Marcus Mason, Head of Business at the BCC, and author of the report, added:

“Since the historic vote on June 23, we have worked with Chamber business communities all across the UK to determine their key priorities for the Brexit transition.

“This report brings those practical priorities together and urges the government to adopt them in the forthcoming negotiations. Chambers of Commerce stand ready to help the government shape a pragmatic and practical approach to the coming transition, so that firms can continue to trade successfully with customers and suppliers across Europe and around the world.”

23rd February 2017

BCC/DHL: Confidence boost for exporters ahead of Article 50 trigger

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with DHL, today (Thursday) publishes its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which shows that confidence among exporters that their turnover will improve jumped in Q4 2016, ahead of further moves towards Brexit. 

Although the number of businesses reporting that their export sales and orders would improve remained largely constant in the last quarter of 2016, businesses in both manufacturing and services are increasingly confident that they will continue to improve turnover, and that profitability will increase or remain steady in the coming 12 months.

The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 1.42% on the quarter – but remains nearly 5% up on the last quarter of 2015.

The results serve as a reminder that businesses are continuing to trade in spite of the uncertainty around Brexit. But to maintain this positivity, the government must focus on the fundamentals of the economy – helping exporters recruit to close a growing skills gap, and provide support for those seeking to navigate currency fluctuations.

Key findings from the report:

  • The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 1.42% on the quarter. The Index now stands at 119.96 – and is up 4.81% on Q4 2015
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales fell slightly to +16, down one point from the previous quarter. Looking at services, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales remained constant at +8
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose to +13 from +12 in Q3, while in services this rose one point to +6
  • Looking at expectations of turnover over the next 12 months, the balance of manufacturers confident of an increase rose nine points to +43 - in services this rose seven points to +35
  • Confidence that profitability would improve rose to +21 for services companies – up from the four-year low of +15 seen in Q3 2016. The balance of manufacturers remained constant at +22

Commenting on the findings, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“Many exporters remain confident, in spite of uncertainty over our relationship with the EU. Our findings serve as a reminder that it is businesses that trade with other businesses, not governments – but they need support if they are to continue to be positive.

“Our economic forecast suggests that inflation is going to rise above the 2% target this year, which will create pressure on many firms. In addition, the fluctuating currency markets are affecting our exporters and importers – so there are warning signs on the horizon.

“The government cannot give businesses much certainty around either Brexit or currency markets, but it can act closer to home. The Chancellor’s Budget must focus on cutting the up-front costs that government imposes on every business, and promote investment and exports.”

Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said: 

“UK exporters continue to be undeterred in their ambition to take their products and services overseas, despite turbulent economic times. 

“Whilst this confidence might come as a surprise during these uncertain times, the rapid evolution of e-commerce and technology means that more businesses than ever are realising the opportunity that exporting presents.

“With online technology in overseas markets advancing, UK exporters should remain confident that their products are now more accessible than ever.”

10th February 2017

BCC: UK exporters put in strong performance in final quarter of 2016

Commenting on the UK trade statistics for December 2016, released today by the Office for National Statistics, Mike Spicer, Director of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The narrowing in the UK’s trade deficit in the final months of last year is a welcome improvement from the weaker performance in the previous quarter, and reflects a growing number of goods being exported to non-EU countries. As Brexit dominates the headlines, the results are an important reminder that UK companies take advantage of trading opportunities in every part of the world.

“This performance comes despite the mixed reaction of exporters to the depreciation in Sterling – which our research has found is hurting as many as it is helping. Looking ahead, the continued weakness of the pound and the expected slowdown in economic growth will likely dampen demand for consumer imports.

“In order to keep UK businesses trading with the world, companies need more direct support from government such as more investment in trade show access. But with margins under pressure, we need to see action at the Budget to reduce the upfront costs of doing business, particularly business rates. This will free up resource for businesses to invest in people and product development - absolutely necessary to taking full advantage of the growth opportunities in overseas markets."

6th February 2017

BCC International Trade Survey: Fall in Sterling expected to increase cost base and push up prices

The recent fall in the value of Sterling is squeezing domestic sales margins, and increasing the cost base of UK businesses, according to the results of the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) latest International Trade Survey. The findings, released today (Monday), also indicate that the weak pound is expected to push up the prices of products and services.

The results of the survey, run in partnership with moneycorp and based on the responses of nearly 1,500 surveyed businesses, indicate that the recent devaluation of Sterling is having a negative impact on the domestic sales margins of nearly half of businesses (44%). The effect is more diverse on export margins, with roughly equal levels of businesses reporting a positive (25%) and negative (22%) impact, suggesting that while the fall in value of the pound may be helping some UK exporters, it’s also hurting others.
The survey also found that 68% of businesses expect the fall in the value of Sterling to increase their cost base in the coming year. In turn, over half (54%) of companies expect to have to increase the prices of their products and services over the next 12 months.
Away from prices, the findings also show that nearly half of businesses (45%) do not currently manage currency risk. For those that do, invoicing in Sterling instead of their customer’s local foreign currency (32%) was the most popular means, followed by opening a foreign currency bank account to deal with sales and purchases in the same currency (16%), and waiting for an advantageous rate and buying using the spot market (14%). The same number of businesses (46%) don’t expect to manage their currency risk in the next six months.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The depreciation of Sterling in recent months has been the main tangible impact that firms have had to grapple with since the EU referendum vote.

“Our research shows that the falling pound has been a double-edged sword for many UK businesses. Nearly as many exporters say the low pound is damaging them as benefiting them. For firms that import, it’s now more expensive, and companies may find themselves locked into contracts with suppliers and unable to be responsive to currency fluctuations.

“Our survey shows that inflation is going to be an important concern for businesses over the coming year. While inflation rates aren’t high by historical standards, they are still putting increasing pressure on companies. Rising costs are squeezing margins, and forcing many firms to increase the prices of their goods and services.

“Currency fluctuations aren’t something in the UK government’s direct control, and they are likely to continue as the Brexit transition unfolds. Ministers must do everything in their power, meantime, to help businesses keep costs down and stay competitive. Alleviating many of the up-front costs facing companies should be a priority for the Budget in March – starting with the sledgehammer of business rates.”

Lee McDarby, Managing Director of UK Corporate International Payments at moneycorp, said:

“The post referendum fall in sterling has clearly had an impact on many UK businesses and, as hedging begins to expire, importers and exporters will have to adapt to the new landscape. For exporters, the move potentially allows for greater competitiveness on an international level; however, importers may now have to think of new ways of protecting their businesses from further volatility.

“The timeframe for stepping away from the European Union is long, with at least two years of negotiation as and when Article 50 is triggered; this means that companies will have to be nimble and proactive when it comes to managing foreign exchange exposure.

“The key events of 2016 have certainly caused market uncertainty and there are no signs that this will subside in 2017. On that basis we are definitely engaging more with new and existing clients who are turning to FX specialists such as moneycorp for support and assistance when it comes to managing their currency risk.”

30th January 2017

BCC International Trade Survey:  Europe to remain key export market despite Brexit vote

UK companies remain committed to strong trading relationships with European customers and suppliers despite the UK’s vote to leave the EU, according to the results of the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) International Trade Survey, released today (Monday).

The results of the survey, based on the responses of nearly 1,500 business people, show that the UK companies surveyed continue to regard Europe as an important trading partner. Around three-quarters of respondents currently sell (76%) and source (73%) goods and services in the EU market.

The findings show that over a third (36%) UK businesses plan on putting more resources into exporting to the European market over the next five years. Europe also remains the market where the higher percentage of businesses (18%) is planning on allocating more resources to sourcing products and services from.

Responding to a question assessing whether the EU referendum has influenced their approach to exporting, nearly a third (31%) of businesses surveyed are looking to export more. The majority (65%) say the EU referendum hasn’t changed their strategy for importing, while 15% say that they are interested in sourcing more internationally. However, there are signs of caution, with 13% looking to source less internationally, which may be as a result of the falling value of the pound making imports more expensive.

Thinking about future trade arrangements with Europe, UK companies surveyed consider the issues of tariffs; non-tariff barriers; and product standards, certification and compliance as the three top priorities for resolution in talks on a Brexit deal.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“These results are an important reminder of the fact that it is businesses that trade, not governments. Although the likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains unclear, businesses still see Europe as a primary market for both selling and sourcing inputs – even after the UK leaves the EU.

“Looking ahead, businesses want the best possible terms of trade following the Brexit negotiations, whatever the ultimate model adopted. UK firms want tariffs, costly non-tariff barriers, and product standards to be at the top of the government’s agenda for a future EU trade deal.

“The best news from this survey is that the EU referendum outcome has sparked a greater interest in foreign markets for a significant number of firms. For that very reason, UK companies need sustained, tangible and practical export support that helps them get their goods and services out to the world.”

17th January 2017

BCC comments on Theresa May’s Brexit speech

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech on Brexit, Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:

"In business, what you achieve in a negotiation - not what you bid for - is what really matters.

"The Brexit process is no different. While businesses now have a clearer sense of the Prime Minister's top-line priorities, they will come away from her speech knowing little more about the likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations than they did yesterday.

"The simple fact is that businesses all across the UK are carrying on. Directly-affected companies are being pragmatic, and are preparing for a range of possible outcomes.

"Away from Westminster, many businesses are ignoring the Brexit 'noise' completely, and say there needs to be a far bigger focus on getting the basics right here at home. Their message is that Brexit must not become all-consuming, and that having the right skills, infrastructure and business environment across the UK will play a far bigger part in our future success than any eventual Brexit deal."

On the Single Market and Customs Union:

"Many businesses facing immediate post-Brexit impacts have been preparing for the eventuality that the UK would leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union, with some sort of free trade deal to follow. The Prime Minister's remarks largely confirm this, and will lead other firms to think about making similar plans.

“Clarity on barrier-free arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic remain critical to business."

On proposals for a transitional period after Brexit:

"Agreeing a reasonable transitional period that gives directly-affected businesses the breathing space they need to adapt to new realities would simply be common sense."

On immigration:

“If, as the Prime Minister suggested, citizens of the EU-27 are subject to future restrictions, a simple and light-touch system is required. Bringing EU nationals into the costly and bureaucratic Home Office work permit process would be a huge regulatory burden for many businesses, especially when their immediate skills shortages at every level remain acute.”

11th January 2017

BCC: Sterling devaluation doing little to help UK’s trade position


Commenting on the trade statistics for November 2016, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The widening of the UK’s trade deficit in November is disappointing, and signifies a considerably weaker trading position than the average for the year. While exports increased slightly in the month, this was more than offset by a record rise in imports, confirming that there is little evidence that the fall in the value of the pound is boosting the UK’s overall trade balance.

“Trade is likely to make a greater contribution to UK GDP in the next few years, as the persistent currency weakness feeds through into improved price competitiveness for some exporters, and diminishes demand for imports. However, the extent of any improvement is likely to be curbed by subdued global trade growth, and the higher cost of imported raw materials.

“In order to achieve a meaningful improvement in our export performance, the government must do more to provide businesses with direct support to access new markets.”

10th January 2017

bmi regional joins forces
with the
Department for International Trade

Airline offers special discounts for UK businesses



British owned airline, bmi regional has partnered with the Department for International Trade to support its ‘Exporting is GREAT’ campaign with discounts for business travellers across its routes.

The campaign aims to inspire businesses to take advantage of the global demand for British goods and services, with tens of thousands of exporting opportunities available for UK companies globally. The Government wants to get more businesses exporting with a target of 100,000 additional exporters by 2020.

At present, statistics show that trade exports for the UK are growing but are far below UK import figures. In October 2016, HMRC reported £28.8 billion in overseas trade, whilst the figure for imports sits at £39.6 billion.*

As an official partner of the campaign and working closely with Exporting is GREAT, bmi regional will be offering special rates for business travellers and will also be supporting the campaign’s Export Hub as it visits locations throughout the UK. We know that one barrier to exporting is the cost of travel and accessibility to new buyers overseas and this partnership will help bring the costs of travel down for businesses.

The airline’s move to support a business led campaign follows bmi regional’s previous incentive to help small companies sell overseas – Seats for Start Ups.

Seats for Start Ups, which ran throughout 2016, saw the airline offering new businesses the chance to win free international flights – designed to enable them to grow their business and sell overseas.

This new campaign goes a step further, with bmi regional offering ALL participating businesses a special discount on EVERY bmi regional route from the UK (excluding codeshares).

Commenting on the partnership, bmi regional’s chief commercial officer, Jochen Schnadt said: “Business travel is a key part of our strategy and helping businesses, large and small, to grow their export trade is fundamental to bmi regional’s strategy of enabling business. We are delighted to be part of this campaign which demonstrates the government’s and industry’s commitment to helping businesses grow and succeed. Our vision as a partner is to help businesses reach their goals and opportunities by providing a quality, efficient and cost effective transport service.”

He continues: “bmi regional has deliberately focused on flying out of specific UK airports at regular and convenient times to make business travel, even returning in a day, a viable option for our clients. We also maintain an inclusive pricing strategy with all fares offering complimentary in-flight drinks and snacks, 23kg hold luggage and allocated seating as standard. Furthermore, our speedy 30 minute check-ins are part of our efforts to create a convenient and seamless journey experience.”

International Trade Minister, Mark Garnier said: “The global appetite for UK goods and services has never been greater. With strong demand out there, I’m delighted that the Department for International Trade will be partnering with bmi to help UK companies seize the opportunities.

“We are determined to do all we can to equip UK companies with the guidance and support needed to help them take the next step in their exporting journey. Our new great.gov.uk digital hub and partnerships like this will deliver that journey.”
Business wishing to take part in the initiative should visit https://www.great.gov.uk/uk/.

To take advantage of bmi regional’s special discounts for business travellers visit https://www.flybmi.com/exporting-is-great and use discount code EXPORT10 when booking.

15th November 2016

New digital service to help businesses launch onto global markets

From:Department for International Trade and The Rt Hon Liam Fox MP
First published:14 November 2016
Part of:Business enterprise, Free trade and Exports and inward investment

New service will help more UK businesses break onto overseas markets, and take advantage of the global appetite for UK goods and services.

The announcement of a new GREAT.gov.uk platform was made today (14 November) by the International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox. The platform will:

  • give UK businesses secure preferential deals through the Department for International Trade to help them start exporting
  • provide a brand new searchable export directory to match businesses according to the worldwide demand for different UK goods and services

The launch of the GREAT.gov.uk trade hub for businesses will help them access millions of pounds’ worth of potential overseas business, give practical advice, and signpost support to help them win lucrative contracts.

The site will act as a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors. Whether businesses are new, occasional or frequent exporters, they will be able to take advantage of the new suite of tools and exclusive deals on fees or commissions with some of world’s leading online marketplaces.

By registering, businesses will become part of a brand new searchable directory of UK exporters which government will use to match their products and services with worldwide demand.

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:

"Maximising the opportunities for international trade is not only in our best economic interests – it’s crucial to the UK’s future prosperity to ensure we’re building and maintaining an economy that works for everybody"

"We have always been at the forefront of the free trade-supporting countries in the EU, but despite this only around 11% of registered British businesses currently export beyond our borders"

"Some businesses have told us they don’t know where to start or how to make the next step onto the global marketplace. That’s why we want to support UK businesses large and small as they grow, and help them connect with global demand to fulfil our greatest economic ambitions"

"GREAT.gov.uk will show an international audience that we’re home to the most dynamic and innovative companies in the world and that Britain is open for business as never before"

Of the 2.5 million businesses registered in the UK, an estimated 360,000 who have an exportable product or service mistakenly believe there isn’t a global demand for it.

The government’s existing E-exporting programme has assisted over 3,000 companies to become exporters and has delivered export deals totalling £388 million since 2014.

The new digital trade hub is part of a push to help a further 100,000 more UK businesses export by 2020. Through e-exporting alone government intends to deliver an additional 20,000 online exporters and £2 billion worth of value to the UK economy by 2020.

Businesses will be able to access the best advice and financial support through GREAT.gov.uk from government, from public and private sector business champions, and from GREAT partners, all specifically designed to help them to grow and succeed through exports.

1st November 2016

BCC: Boost SME export support to navigate uncertainty

On the day (Tuesday) that trade experts from Chambers of Commerce at home and in overseas markets across the world gather for the BCC Global Business Network conference, the British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with DHL, publishes its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which incicates that uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union is slowing down export orders in the services sector.

The services sector saw a slowdown in growth, with the balance of businesses in the sector expecting an improvement in sales and orders also falling to its lowest level in five years.

In contrast, the report also shows that a greater proportion of manufacturers enjoyed an improved export performance compared with the second quarter, with some benefiting from sterling’s recent fall. This is also replicated in an improvement to the sector’s future orders.

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 4.14% on the quarter – following the surge of documentation issued before the EU referendum – but remains 5.32% up on the same quarter of 2015.

The results show that exports are expected to grow at a slower pace in the coming months, and confidence in turnover and profitability has also fallen in the medium term. The BCC calls on the government to use the Autumn Statement to increase resources to directly support SME export plans, providing direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad.

Key findings from the report are:

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 4.14% on the quarter, but rose by 5.32% compared with Q3 2015. The Index now stands at 121.69, and remains high by historical levels
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +17%, up from +9% in Q2. However, the percentage balance of firms in the services sector reporting improved export sales fell three points to +8%
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose to +12%, from +5% in Q2. Again this balance fell for firms in the services sector, to +5% from +13%
  • Looking at expectations of profitability over the next 12 months, the balance of firms expecting it to increase in the manufacturing sector fell to +22%, from +28% in Q2
  • In the services sector, this fell sharply from +33% to +15% in Q2 – the lowest level in four years.

Commenting on the findings, Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“While factors including the weaker pound have benefited manufacturers when it comes to exporting, the services sector continues to face challenges. The decline in export orders in the services sector is concerning considering the sector is by far the largest part of the economy.

“Our data suggests that slower growth is likely to come in the months ahead. However, it is important to note that while the UK’s economic growth may slow further, we are unlikely to enter a recession.

“To fire up the animal spirits of our exporters, and boost business confidence, the Chancellor should use the Autumn Statement to improve direct financial support for firms looking to access new markets without bureaucracy or delay. Enabling businesses to attend trade missions, trade fairs, commission market research or make themselves export ready would be a shot in the arm for our trade performance at a time of uncertainty.”

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“As the EU referendum approached there was an underlying sense of uncertainty on the part of British businesses and, despite a strong Trade Confidence Index against last year, this latest report shows that that feeling still exists – even amongst the manufacturing exporters currently enjoying the UK’s increased global competitiveness as a result fall in the value of the pound.

“Businesses are now seeking advice and reassurance about getting their goods and services overseas and it is important that businesses and government work together as EU negotiations progress. At DHL, we will continue to leverage our strength in navigating complex customs processes to encourage the UK’s exporters to be confident in their ability to grow and succeed internationally.”

Click here to view the QUARTERLY INTERNATIONAL TRADE OUTLOOK Q3 - 2016 

4th October 2016

BCC: Further non-EU immigration restrictions negative for economy, jobs, investment

Commenting on the immigration proposals announced by Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the Conservative Party conference, Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“While it is understandable that the government is looking at ways to control migration in the aftermath of the EU referendum, a further squeeze on key business hires and international students would be bad news for the economy, job creation and business investment.

On the proposals for additional restrictions to Tier 2 workers, Adam Marshall added:
“Now is not the time to tell businesses that they have to jump through more hoops to get the talent they need from around the world. Many companies already have a hard time bringing in critical workers when they can’t find the right skills at home in the UK, and tighter regulations may simply leave many choosing not to recruit or expand at this time.”

On the proposals for entry rules for students, Adam Marshall said:
“Our universities are both anchors of local business communities and important exporters in their own right. Restricting universities' ability to sell their services around the world would be seen by many business communities across the UK as an act of economic vandalism."

12th September 2016

BCC: UK growth forecasts downgraded as uncertainty hits investment

In its first economic forecast since the EU referendum, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Monday) downgraded its UK GDP growth forecast, from 2.2% to 1.8% in 2016, from 2.3% to 1.0% in 2017, and from 2.4% to 1.8% in 2018.

Weaker consumer spending and a large fall in investment were the main reasons for the leading business group’s downgrading of its growth forecasts. The uncertainty surrounding the UK’s long-term political arrangements with the EU, as well as the timeline over which any actions will take place, are expected to dampen growth prospects towards the end of 2016 and over 2017.  Despite these issues, the UK is expected to skirt with, but avoid, recession. The post-referendum slide in sterling is expected to help improve the UK’s net trade position.

The downgrades to the BCC’s forecast for UK GDP growth imply that the UK economy will be £43.8 billion smaller at the end of the forecast period than previously predicted.  

Key points in the forecast: 

  • UK GDP growth forecasts downgraded: to 1.8% for 2016, to 1.0% for 2017, and to 1.8% 2018.
  • GDP growth is expected to slow sharply in the short-term - quarter-on-quarter growth in Q3 and Q4 2016 is forecast to slow down to 0.1%. 
  • If the GDP growth forecast for 2017 is realised it would be the weakest rate of growth since 2009. 
  • Weaker consumer spending and a large fall in investment is expected to be only partly offset by a stronger contribution from net trade. 
  • Business investment is expected to fall by 2.2% in 2016 and by 3.4% in 2017. The slight pick-up in business investment in 2018 (+2.0%) reflects a ‘levelling-off’ from the declines recorded in 2016 and 2017. This compares to our previous forecast of a 4.5% increase in 2016 and rises of 7.4% in 2017 and 2018.  
  • Export growth is expected to drop to 2.3% in 2016, from 4.8% in 2015, but grow slowly to 3% in 2017 and 4% in 2018.
  • Services and consumer spending will remain the key growth drivers of the UK economy through the forecast period.
  • Employment growth is expected to slow in 2017, as uncertainty weighs on recruitment intentions.
  • A further cut in interest rates is expected by the end of the year.

Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

"Although individual businesses continue to report strong trading conditions, the overall picture suggests a sharp slowdown in UK growth lies ahead.

"Our forecast suggests that the UK is likely to avoid a recession, but with the health warning that businesses are still digesting the result of June's EU referendum and the challenges and opportunities to come.

"The value of sterling, the shape of future trade relationships, the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and other factors will all influence business confidence over the coming quarters.

"Stability, clarity and action must continue to be the watchwords for government. Aside from a clear timetable for negotiations with the EU, ministers must act to support business investment and confidence.

“They should start with the long list of business-boosting infrastructure projects that have been put on hold for far too long - including a firm decision on a new airport runway, new nuclear investment, and road and rail schemes. 

"We also need to see policies to encourage business investment, such as revisions to our outdated business rates system, which penalises companies for investment in plant and machinery, and hits firms before they have even turned over a penny.”

Suren Thiru, BCC Head of Economics, said:

“The downgrades to our growth forecast confirm that the UK economy is set to enter a turbulent period, with growth expected to weaken materially in the near term. 

 “Mounting uncertainty is likely to put a brake on investment, while rising inflation and moderately weaker labour market conditions are expected to stifle consumer spending. On the upside, the UK’s net trade position is expected to be boosted by the post-referendum slide in the value of sterling.

“Despite the likely improvement in the UK’s trade position, the significant imbalances currently facing the UK economy are expected to persist through the forecast period, with a continued over-reliance on services and consumer spending as key determinants of UK economic growth. 

“While the longer-term outlook for the UK economy is highly uncertain the risks are on balance tilted to the downside, with the deep-rooted structural issues, such the size of the UK’s current account deficit, leaving the UK increasingly exposed to economic shocks.”

19th August 2016

BCC: Surge in trade documentation before EU referendum

There was a surge in the volume of trade documentation issued in the second quarter of 2016 - before the EU referendum - the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown.

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 9.4% on Q1 2016 to stand at a record high of 126.95 in Q2 2016 – a rise of 4.83% on Q2 2015.

The rise in documentation could be down to short-term factors, such as a rush to get longstanding orders through before the EU referendum or before the summer season, which is traditionally a slower period.

However, despite the growth in the volume of trade documents issued before the EU referendum, many firms have not translated this into increased orders. Export sales and orders have remained in a holding pattern for the past few quarters, with firms putting off their plans for growth or recruitment until they have more certainty about the evolving economic and business position.

In order to boost confidence for firms, the BCC calls on the government to deliver on the many infrastructure projects that will help businesses get services and goods to market.

The key findings from the report are:

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 9.4% on Q1 2016, and by 4.83% on Q2 2015. The index now stands at 126.95 – the largest index figure since records began in 2004.
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +9% in Q2 from +8% in Q1. The balance of service firms reporting improved export sales fell to +11% in Q2 from +13% in Q1.
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export advance orders in Q2 fell from +8% in Q1 to +5%. The balance of service firms reporting improved export advance orders in Q2 fell from +16% in Q1 to +13%.
  • The balance of manufacturers expecting profitability to increase over the next 12 months fell to +28% in Q2 from +32% in Q1. The balance of service firms expecting profitability to increase over the next 12 months fell to +33% in Q2 from +36% in Q1.

Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“It's encouraging to see that more UK businesses sought export documents to get their goods safely to overseas customers this Spring. However, this rise could be due to short-term factors, including a push to get deals done before the EU referendum or before the summer season, which is traditionally a slower period.

“We will be keeping a close eye on export trends in the coming quarters, to see if exporters are able to take advantage of the post-referendum fall in sterling over the summer and beyond. The cheap pound could prove to be a double-edged sword for some companies, though, as any who are also importers will have seen their costs rise significantly.

“I am inspired by the many UK firms who are looking past post-referendum uncertainty and planning for new sales and higher profits. Yet there are also many who need a confidence boost. Ministers could help by radically enhancing trade missions, and delivering the many infrastructure projects that will help UK firms get services and goods to market."

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“UK exporters should do all that they can to make the most of the situation in which the UK finds itself. British products remain an internationally recognised hallmark of quality and, with the fall in the value of the pound, British exporters should seize this opportunity to sell their goods more competitively overseas.

It is important that we all work together to champion solutions that will ensure cross border trade continues to be as smooth as possible, and that trade barriers do not have the opportunity to materialise.”

26th July 2016

SOUTH EAST EXPORTERS RECEIVE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR NEARLY £60 MILLION OF SALES OVERSEAS

UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK’s export credit agency, provided £11 million in support for £60 million of exports in the South East from April 2015-March 2016.

UKEF’s annual report and accounts, published today, show that the department has supported the largest number of exporters in 25 years in 2015/16 across the UK, with a 23% increase since last year. 77% of the exporters that benefited from finance and insurance from UKEF were small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and an estimated 7,000 companies in exporter supply chains also indirectly benefited.

Companies supported include Oyster Yachts, a Southampton-based bluewater yacht manufacturer. When Oyster won a number of contracts to build yachts for buyers in Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, it was asked to provide advance payment guarantees from its bank, which would have reduced the working capital available to fulfil these orders. With the benefit of a guarantee under the UK Export Finance Bond Support Scheme, Oyster’s bank was able to issue the bonds without restricting the funding available to the business.

Simon Haynes, Group Finance Director, said:

“Without UKEF’s support, we would have had to look at less favourable financing options in order to deliver these contracts. Working with UKEF meant that we were able to access the finance we needed to sell to Europe and beyond and drive core revenue growth.”

Stuart Stoter, Export Finance Adviser for Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said:

“UKEF is here to help make exports happen. Our support for companies like Oyster Yachts in the South East shows how we can help UK businesses realise their ambitions to grow by selling overseas.”

Lord Price, Minister for Trade and Investment, welcomed the results, saying:

“Exporting can help businesses grow – and grow fast. That means more jobs, more profits, more tax revenue and more benefit to society. By providing its innovative support to more exporters than ever before, UKEF is helping to make exports happen, playing a vital role in the whole-of-government push for 100,000 new exporters by 2020.”

Louis Taylor, UKEF’s Chief Executive Officer, added:

“UK Export Finance’s mission is to ensure that no viable UK export should fail for lack of finance or insurance from the private sector. This year’s results show that we are making significant progress in reaching a wider customer base. We will continue to be innovative and flexible, anticipating the needs of exporters and finding ways to meet them.”

This announcement comes a year into the Exporting is GREAT campaign, the government’s drive to empower 100,000 new companies to sell overseas by 2020.
Download the 2015/16 Performance Highlights and the Annual Report and Accounts here.

22nd July 2016

Landmark collaboration between government and banks to create the UK’s biggest export directory

The UK’s 5 major high street banks pledge to work with the new Department for International Trade to transform access to UK business exports.

  • the UK’s 5 largest banks pledge support for a new Directory of Exporters that will transform the way in which the world has access to UK business exports
  • companies can register https://directory.exportingisgreat.gov.uk/ ready to promote themselves to a global audience
  • Directory of Exporters set to launch in November 2016 as part of the government’s new global digital service for businesses

The UK’s 5 major high street banks have signed up to work with the new Department for International Trade to revolutionise the way businesses access international markets, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced today (21 July 2016).

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander are getting behind the government’s drive to populate a new and unique Directory of Exporters. The Directory will link UK companies with contacts from around the world. Potential customers and buyers from global markets will be able to search for companies from across the whole of the UK which are ready to supply the products, services and skills they need.

The directory heralds an incredible opportunity for the UK economy and is part of wider government plans for a more digital service that will provide a world-leading platform for British businesses and the UK economy. The government and banks see this unique collaboration as the critical first stage in creating a ground-breaking service, aiming to make the UK the easiest place in the world from which to start exporting. Further details of the service will be revealed as the offer develops in advance of its launch in November 2016.

Business customers of the 5 banks will be encouraged to join the directory and take advantage of this exciting opportunity to promote themselves in lucrative global markets.

Announcing the partnership at an event in London, Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, said:

"The new Department for International Trade is perfectly placed to bring together the whole of government, industry and our extensive overseas network to help UK businesses win lucrative deals. We want to help UK businesses scale up and take advantage of the global appetite for British goods and services, as well as to demonstrate that there has never been a better time for international companies to partner with UK suppliers.

The first of its kind, this directory will deliver a unique and new route to global markets, promoting British goods and services on an unprecedented scale. With this kind of creativity and collaborative working between government and industry, I’m confident that we can make the whole of the UK a beacon for open trade around the world."

Minister for International Trade, Lord Price, also welcomed the agreement, saying:

"This is a great new initiative which I believe will fundamentally change the way businesses export. The Directory of Exporters will create a truly modern trading relationship between UK businesses and the rest of the world, providing a real boost to our exports.

This new digital platform is another example of the government’s commitment to shaping a bright future for the UK as a global trading nation and builds on the impressive work already underway - including the Exporting is GREAT campaign https://www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk/ - to give a vital boost to budding exporters."

Hosted at ExportingisGREAT.gov.uk, https://www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk/ the directory will be supported by extensive international marketing activity to increase and sustain the ongoing demand for UK goods and services. Companies can access support to make them more competitive internationally and register https://directory.exportingisgreat.gov.uk/ to receive live export opportunities direct to their inboxes, helping them to secure new contracts overseas.

The agreement also includes measures to help the UK track progress in exports more closely, with banks pledging to work with the government on quarterly data. Together with the directory, this forms part of the Department for International Trade’s plans to leverage digital channels more than ever before stimulating demand for, and supply of, UK exports and investment into the UK.

The newly created Department for International Trade has been charged by the Prime Minister with promoting UK trade across the world and ensuring the UK takes advantage of the many opportunities available.The department is a new, specialised body, specifically designed to drive forward the trade and investment agenda.

12th July 2016

BCC Quarterly Economic Survey: Sub-par UK economic growth even prior to EU Referendum

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Quarterly Economic Survey – Britain’s largest and most authoritative private sector business survey, based on over 8,200 responses from firms in Q2 2016 – suggests that UK economic growth was uninspiring in the run-up to the EU Referendum.

The survey – the biggest snapshot of how the UK economy was performing just before the referendum – shows that several key indicators remained static, or at a low ebb. Our services sector – the UK’s main driver of economic growth – saw domestic and overseas sales fall ahead of the referendum, and manufacturing sales remained at a historically low ebb. On the basis of our data we do not expect official data to record an improvement in UK GDP for Q2.

The results suggest that even before the uncertainty caused by the EU referendum result, uninspiring growth rates would have required future action to shore up business confidence and promote investment. The BCC calls on the government to get on with the big domestic decisions that underpin investment and business confidence, such as direct investment in the transport, energy, housing and digital schemes that can have a major impact on communities, supply chains, jobs and productivity.

Key findings in the Q2 2016 survey:

  • Overall, the figures for both the services and manufacturing firms indicate continued low levels of growth. However, in the run-up to the referendum remained fairly static across many indicators, and slackened in others
  • In the manufacturing sector, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales rose slightly to a percentage balance of +9 from +8 – although fewer firms reported an increase in advance orders (+5, down from +8 in Q1)
  • However there has been practically no change in the number of firms reporting growth in their workforce over the last quarter in the manufacturing sector (+12, down from +13) 
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved cash flow fell three points to +4, and is now at the lowest level since Q2 2013
  • Fewer manufacturers are looking to invest in training – down 8 points to +19, the lowest since Q1 2013
  • In the services sector, the percentage of companies who are struggling to recruit fell slightly to 64, down from the 18-year high of 68
  • Ahead of the referendum, fewer services companies reported an increase in export sales and orders (+11 and +13, down from +13 and +16 respectively)
  • Fewer firms reporting improvements in domestic sales and orders in the last quarter. For manufacturing, the balance of firms reporting an increase in orders fell four points to +9, while in services this fell slightly by one point to +20
  • The balance of manufacturers confident that turnover would improve fell from +44 to +40 – the lowest level since Q3 2012. The balance of service firms confident that turnover would improve remained unchanged at +44 – and remains low by historical standards
  • Pressure to increase pay rose slightly for services (30, up from 27) but fell for manufacturing firms (27, down from 33).

Commenting, Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Even before the EU referendum, both business confidence and economic growth were softening in many parts of the UK. Our latest survey results, captured just before the vote, suggest that many businesses have been operating in something of a holding pattern for some time.

"It is categorically too early to say what impact the referendum decision has had on most firms across the UK, as we have as yet had only anecdotal evidence from those facing challenges, those holding steady, and those seizing new opportunities. The impact of the referendum will require many businesses to take decisions whose impacts will take time to show up on the bottom line.

"Yet it is not too early for us to say what business wants to see: stability in markets, clarity in politics, and action on the issues that matter for growth. At a time of transition, all the businesses I speak to want Westminster to lead by example - by making bold decisions to progress key infrastructure and construction projects, by guaranteeing that EU workers can stay in British firms, and by seeking the best possible future terms of trade for the UK. Business confidence would be buoyed by strong and clear leadership, both on the timeline for EU negotiations and on the big decisions unrelated to our future relationship with the EU."

23rd May 2016

BCC: UK exporters report modest Q1 growth amid softening economy

The number of UK firms reporting an increase in export orders and confidence rose at the start of 2016, following a drop in growth at the end of 2015, the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown.

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 1.4% in Q1 2016, compared with the previous quarter, to stand at an index of 116.04 in Q1 2016. However, in annual terms there was a decline of 4.4% on Q1 2015.

During the same period, ONS data and the BCC’s Quarterly Economic Survey have shown that economic growth softened across the UK.

There were clear sectoral differences in Q1 2016. Among manufacturing exporters, the balance of firms reporting improvements in export sales over the first three months of the year rose from +1% in Q4 to +8%. This increase came after a six-year low in Q4 2015. The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders also rose from +1% to +8%.

Export sales growth dipped in the services sector, where the balance of service firms reporting improved export sales fell two points to +13%. However, export orders rose to +16% from +9%.

Across the regions and nations of the UK, there was a mixed picture. Despite showing growth throughout 2015, the volume of trade documentation issued in Scotland dropped to its lowest since Q3 2009, while the North East and Northern Ireland both reached record highs for their areas. These figures provide a strong proxy for levels of goods exports to non-EU markets.

The key findings from the report are:

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 1.4% on Q4 2015, but fell by 4.4% on Q1 2015 - the index now stands at 116.04
  • The largest quarter-on-quarter increases in export document volumes were in the West Midlands (7.4%), South West (6.9%), and the North West (6.5%)
  • The biggest declines in export document volumes were in Scotland (-13.6%), Yorkshire & Humber (-4.4%), and the East of England (-3.5%)
  • BCC data shows that the balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +8% in Q1 2016 from +1% the previous quarter, and export orders growth rose to +8% in Q1 2016 from +1% in Q4 2015
  • The balance of services firms reporting improved export sales over the past three months fell to +13% in Q1 2016 from +15% in Q4 2015, and export orders growth rose to +16% in Q1 2016 from +9% in Q4 2015

Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Our latest analysis suggests that, despite efforts from businesses and government alike, we are not yet succeeding in transforming the UK’s export performance.

“There are a number of headwinds affecting our exporters, including a slowing global economy and major structural issues at home. Britain's politicians need to focus on fixing the fundamentals of infrastructure, training and access to finance if we are to help UK firms to become more productive and competitive on the global stage.

“Although we saw a gentle rise in confidence and export orders this quarter, these improvements were from a low base. Manufacturers in particular have seen a long period of slowing export growth. Businesses and government will need to work together to nurture stronger export performance - a job that will take a decade or more to see through to fruition.”

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“Export performance continues to fluctuate across the different regions of the UK – making it an unpredictable time for businesses. With the EU referendum just around the corner, this is something that will be on the minds of exporters and also of those thinking about taking that first step in their export journey.

“However, businesses shouldn’t be put off by this uncertainty. Exporters and potential exporters should be reminded that there are plenty of support systems for businesses to lean on such as DHL, the BCC and many other expert organisations.”

26th February 2016

Export growth slows in the face of global headwinds

UK export growth continued to slow at the end of 2015, with manufacturers in particular struggling, a report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown.

Export sales and orders across both manufacturing and services sectors fell significantly in the last quarter of 2015, according to the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook.

The survey’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued, fell by 2.5% on Q4 2014 to stand at 114.46 in Q4 2015 - a decline of 0.9% on Q3 2015.

Among manufacturers, the balance of firms reporting improvements in export sales over the previous three months fell from +10% in Q3 to just +1% - the lowest level since Q3 2009 – while export orders dropped from +10% to +1%.

Export growth also dipped in the services sector, where the sales balance fell three points to +15%, and export orders fell to +9% from +16% - the lowest level since Q4 2011.

The key findings from the report are:

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 0.9% on Q3 2015, and by 2.5% on Q4 2014 - the index now stands at 114.46
  • The largest increases in export document volumes were in the North East (7.07%), Scotland (5.76%), and Northern Ireland (5.11%)
  • The biggest declines in export document volumes were in the West Midlands (-7.46%), the North West (-6.24%), and the East Midlands (-4.18%)
  • From the BCC’s survey, the balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales fell markedly to +1% in Q4 2015 from +10% the previous quarter, and export orders growth fell to +1% in Q4 2015 from +10% in Q3 2015
  • The balance of services firms reporting improved export sales over the past three months fell to +15% in Q4 2015 from +18% in Q3 2015, and export orders growth fell to +9% in Q4 2015 from +16% in Q3 2015

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“British exporters have faced considerable challenges in recent months. Slowing growth in China and the US, along with the continued weakness in the Eurozone, have made it harder for firms to build momentum.

“While the rate of growth has dropped significantly, exports are continuing to grow - a testament to British businesses, particularly in the face of such global uncertainty.

“However, if we are to reverse our longstanding trade deficit then British firms need greater practical support – access to finance, a skilled workforce and good infrastructure connections – if they are to successfully break into new export markets, and this needs to be a national priority for the UK otherwise we risk being left behind in the global race.”

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“Some areas of the UK – in particular Scotland, the North East and Northern Ireland – are showing strong growth in export volumes. However, with most regions experiencing declining volumes and the UK’s trade gap recently reaching an all-time high, it’s more important than ever that we concentrate on supporting more British businesses to export.

“The UK’s relentless demand for imported goods means that we need to work hard to significantly boost exports and strike the right balance.

“As the UK focuses its efforts on exporting as a way of securing the future of our economy, DHL will continue to support businesses and ensure that more and more organisations feel comfortable in taking that first step overseas.”

17th February 2016

BUSINESS VOTING INTENTIONS HARDEN AS PM SEEKS FINAL DEAL

Please click here to view the article

19th January 2016

CROSS-GOVERNMENT APPROACH AT HEART OF NEW DRIVE TO BOOST EXPORTS

  • Export push led by the Exports Implementation Taskforce and delivered by re-focused UKTI
  • New operating model locating UKTI expertise into the departments responsible for certain sectors 
  • More bespoke, direct and practical support for companies wanting to start or increase exporting 
  • Government announces new Trade Envoys

A new whole-of-government approach to boosting British exports delivered through a transformed, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), focused on priority markets and sectors, has been announced today by Trade Minister Lord Maude.

UKTI will be at the centre of this new approach, overseeing and co-ordinating export performance on behalf of the Cross-Government Exports Implementation Taskforce, led by Business Secretary Sajid Javid.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“To improve the UK’s export performance we need to get the whole of government mobilised and working towards the same goal. By putting a refocused UKTI at the centre of a co-ordinated cross-Government approach relevant departments will share expertise to get UK businesses exporting.”

Trade Minister Lord Maude said:

“To move the needle on exports and meet our commitments we need to do things differently. We want to make the UK the easiest country in the world to do trade with by making it easier, faster and simpler for more UK businesses to start exporting, generating a more vibrant export support marketplace, and giving more financial support to exporters. The use of new, lower-cost, digital technologies will help us do more for businesses, more efficiently.

“We will co-ordinate the energies of the whole of government on boosting exports, sharing responsibility across departments, harnessing their deep sector knowledge, focusing on priority targets, and monitoring progress closely. UKTI will be at the heart of this work, as well as retaining its remit to attract and support investment to the UK, but we are bringing together all of government to play a role.”

  • To increase the value of exports, UKTI will concentrate resources on those markets and sectors in which the UK is or can be a strong competitor. It will also bring together the best of public and private sector experience to develop targeted export campaigns connecting international demand to UK supply. As part of this process, UKTI will locate sector experts in other mainstream government departments during early 2016, including the creation of a Great British Food Unit based in DEFRA. This will better leverage specialist knowledge and existing relationships with business, and join up policy and operational delivery. With Sector ministers accountable for the export performance of industries, sector-led campaigns will become increasingly joined up with domestic policy and the deep expertise our customers are seeking, maximising the chances of export success. Departmental ministers responsible for wider policies for their industry sector will oversee the development and delivery of sector export plans. 
  • A redesigned UKTI HQ will serve as a strategic hub supporting this activity, allocating resources against priorities, and monitoring and evaluating progress against plans. Performance will be focused on measuring the volume and value of exports delivered. 
  • To increase the number of exporters, UKTI is focusing on transforming its digital service, using new technology to meet the needs of more businesses and increase cost efficiencies. The five-year Exporting is GREAT marketing campaign launched in November to drive up the number of new exporters is one part of this work, and has already generated more than 4,750 applications for export opportunities. In addition, having consulted UK businesses to find out what they need to help boost their exports, UKTI is now developing a single digital platform to help businesses find the export information, support, and advice they need, be it from Government or private sector providers. 
  • New Practical and Financial Support for Businesses: UKTI will develop a suite of new practical and direct support products and services, based on best practice and learning from competitor countries’ export promotion agencies. Over the coming months, UKTI will pilot these services and products to ensure they adequately reflect businesses’ needs.

Where export services can be provided by the private sector, with no or little value provided by government’s involvement, the government ultimately intends to exit that market and will focus instead on fostering an invigorated private sector export support marketplace.

UKTI will continue to provide a range of cross-sector support including enhanced support for trade missions and fairs, GREAT marketing and events, and access to on-demand export opportunities.

Work by the FCO and other departments that support exports will continue, including working within the European Union to encourage the negotiation and implementation of Free Trade Agreements. UKTI will continue to lead government efforts to attract £1.5 trillion in foreign direct investment.

The focus on trade as a Government priority has also been reinforced by the Prime Minister’s decision to announce a number of new Trade Envoys. The Trade Envoy programme supports the government’s overall strategy to drive economic growth and Envoys are appointed by the Prime Minister to act on behalf of government and to carry his personal mandate. Envoys are carefully selected for their experience, skills and knowledge of particular sectors or markets, or their knowledge of business. This means they can work closely with the Government to promote the UK’s excellence globally and champion trade and investment priorities. There are now 24 Trade Envoys covering 50 high-growth and emerging markets.

The newly appointed Trade Envoys are:

  • Angola – The Rt. Hon. Baroness Northover
  • Burma, Brunei, Thailand - Mark Garnier MP
  • Canada - Andrew Percy MP
  • DRC, Mozambique - Richard Benyon MP
  • Ethiopia - Jeremy Lefroy MP
  • Ghana - Adam Afriyie MP
  • Iran – The Rt. Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick
  • Morocco, Tunisia - Andrew Murrison MP
  • Nigeria - John Howell MP
  • Philippines, Malaysia - Richard Graham MP (extending his existing envoy role in Indonesia, ASEAN Economic Community)
  • Taiwan - Lord Faulkner of Worcester
  • Uganda, Rwanda - Lord Popat

 

16th December 2015

EXPORTS COMMISSION NEEDED TO RAISE UK’S EXPORT PERFORMANCE – CBI

An independent, national Exports Commission must be set up if the UK is serious about turning its export performance around in a meaningful way, according to a new CBI report, published today (Wednesday).

In Best in Class, Britain’s largest business group 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 MSBs 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.

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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BCC: UK growth forecasts downgraded as uncertainty hits investment

In its first economic forecast since the EU referendum, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Monday) downgraded its UK GDP growth forecast, from 2.2% to 1.8% in 2016, from 2.3% to 1.0% in 2017, and from 2.4% to 1.8% in 2018.

Weaker consumer spending and a large fall in investment were the main reasons for the leading business group’s downgrading of its growth forecasts. The uncertainty surrounding the UK’s long-term political arrangements with the EU, as well as the timeline over which any actions will take place, are expected to dampen growth prospects towards the end of 2016 and over 2017.  Despite these issues, the UK is expected to skirt with, but avoid, recession. The post-referendum slide in sterling is expected to help improve the UK’s net trade position.

The downgrades to the BCC’s forecast for UK GDP growth imply that the UK economy will be £43.8 billion smaller at the end of the forecast period than previously predicted. 

Key points in the forecast: 

·         UK GDP growth forecasts downgraded: to 1.8% for 2016, to 1.0% for 2017, and to 1.8% 2018.

·         GDP growth is expected to slow sharply in the short-term - quarter-on-quarter growth in Q3 and Q4 2016 is forecast to slow down to 0.1%.

·         If the GDP growth forecast for 2017 is realised it would be the weakest rate of growth since 2009.

·         Weaker consumer spending and a large fall in investment is expected to be only partly offset by a stronger contribution from net trade.

·         Business investment is expected to fall by 2.2% in 2016 and by 3.4% in 2017. The slight pick-up in business investment in 2018 (+2.0%) reflects a ‘levelling-off’ from the declines recorded in 2016 and 2017. This compares to our previous forecast of a 4.5% increase in 2016 and rises of 7.4% in 2017 and 2018. 

·         Export growth is expected to drop to 2.3% in 2016, from 4.8% in 2015, but grow slowly to 3% in 2017 and 4% in 2018.

·         Services and consumer spending will remain the key growth drivers of the UK economy through the forecast period.

·         Employment growth is expected to slow in 2017, as uncertainty weighs on recruitment intentions.

·         A further cut in interest rates is expected by the end of the year.

Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

"Although individual businesses continue to report strong trading conditions, the overall picture suggests a sharp slowdown in UK growth lies ahead.

"Our forecast suggests that the UK is likely to avoid a recession, but with the health warning that businesses are still digesting the result of June's EU referendum and the challenges and opportunities to come.

 

"The value of sterling, the shape of future trade relationships, the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and other factors will all influence business confidence over the coming quarters.

 

"Stability, clarity and action must continue to be the watchwords for government. Aside from a clear timetable for negotiations with the EU, ministers must act to support business investment and confidence.

 

“They should start with the long list of business-boosting infrastructure projects that have been put on hold for far too long - including a firm decision on a new airport runway, new nuclear investment, and road and rail schemes.

 

"We also need to see policies to encourage business investment, such as revisions to our outdated business rates system, which penalises companies for investment in plant and machinery, and hits firms before they have even turned over a penny.”

 

Suren Thiru, BCC Head of Economics, said:

 

“The downgrades to our growth forecast confirm that the UK economy is set to enter a turbulent period, with growth expected to weaken materially in the near term.

 

“Mounting uncertainty is likely to put a brake on investment, while rising inflation and moderately weaker labour market conditions are expected to stifle consumer spending. On the upside, the UK’s net trade position is expected to be boosted by the post-referendum slide in the value of sterling.

 

“Despite the likely improvement in the UK’s trade position, the significant imbalances currently facing the UK economy are expected to persist through the forecast period, with a continued over-reliance on services and consumer spending as key determinants of UK economic growth.

 

“While the longer-term outlook for the UK economy is highly uncertain the risks are on balance tilted to the downside, with the deep-rooted structural issues, such the size of the UK’s current account deficit, leaving the UK increasingly exposed to economic shocks.”

BCC: Boost SME export support to navigate uncertainty

 

On the day (Tuesday) that trade experts from Chambers of Commerce at home and in overseas markets across the world gather for the BCC Global Business Network conference, the British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with DHL, publishes its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which incicates that uncertainty following the vote to leave the European Union is slowing down export orders in the services sector.

 

The services sector saw a slowdown in growth, with the balance of businesses in the sector expecting an improvement in sales and orders also falling to its lowest level in five years.

 

In contrast, the report also shows that a greater proportion of manufacturers enjoyed an improved export performance compared with the second quarter, with some benefiting from sterling’s recent fall. This is also replicated in an improvement to the sector’s future orders.

 

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 4.14% on the quarter – following the surge of documentation issued before the EU referendum – but remains 5.32% up on the same quarter of 2015.

 

The results show that exports are expected to grow at a slower pace in the coming months, and confidence in turnover and profitability has also fallen in the medium term. The BCC calls on the government to use the Autumn Statement to increase resources to directly support SME export plans, providing direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad.

 

Key findings from the report are:

 

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 4.14% on the quarter, but rose by 5.32% compared with Q3 2015. The Index now stands at 121.69, and remains high by historical levels
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +17%, up from +9% in Q2. However, the percentage balance of firms in the services sector reporting improved export sales fell three points to +8%
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose to +12%, from +5% in Q2. Again this balance fell for firms in the services sector, to +5% from +13%
  • Looking at expectations of profitability over the next 12 months, the balance of firms expecting it to increase in the manufacturing sector fell to +22%, from +28% in Q2
  • In the services sector, this fell sharply from +33% to +15% in Q2 – the lowest level in four years.

 

Commenting on the findings, Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

“While factors including the weaker pound have benefited manufacturers when it comes to exporting, the services sector continues to face challenges. The decline in export orders in the services sector is concerning considering the sector is by far the largest part of the economy.

“Our data suggests that slower growth is likely to come in the months ahead. However, it is important to note that while the UK’s economic growth may slow further, we are unlikely to enter a recession.

“To fire up the animal spirits of our exporters, and boost business confidence, the Chancellor should use the Autumn Statement to improve direct financial support for firms looking to access new markets without bureaucracy or delay. Enabling businesses to attend trade missions, trade fairs, commission market research or make themselves export ready would be a shot in the arm for our trade performance at a time of uncertainty.”

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“As the EU referendum approached there was an underlying sense of uncertainty on the part of British businesses and, despite a strong Trade Confidence Index against last year, this latest report shows that that feeling still exists – even amongst the manufacturing exporters currently enjoying the UK’s increased global competitiveness as a result fall in the value of the pound.

“Businesses are now seeking advice and reassurance about getting their goods and services overseas and it is important that businesses and government work together as EU negotiations progress. At DHL, we will continue to leverage our strength in navigating complex customs processes to encourage the UK’s exporters to be confident in their ability to grow and succeed internationally.”

The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 1.42% on the quarter – but remains nearly 5% up on the last quarter of 2015.
The results serve as a reminder that businesses are continuing to trade in spite of the uncertainty around Brexit. But to maintain this positivity, the government must focus on the fundamentals of the economy – helping exporters recruit to close a growing skills gap, and provide support for those seeking to navigate currency fluctuations.
Key findings from the report:
•The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 1.42% on the quarter. The Index now stands at 119.96 – and is up 4.81% on Q4 2015•The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales fell slightly to +16, down one point from the previous quarter. Looking at services, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales remained constant at +8•The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose to +13 from +12 in Q3, while in services this rose one point to +6•Looking at expectations of turnover over the next 12 months, the balance of manufacturers confident of an increase rose nine points to +43 - in services this rose seven points to +35•Confidence that profitability would improve rose to +21 for services companies – up from the four-year low of +15 seen in Q3 2016. The balance of manufacturers remained constant at +22
Commenting on the findings, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:
“Many exporters remain confident, in spite of uncertainty over our relationship with the EU. Our findings serve as a reminder that it is businesses that trade with other businesses, not governments – but they need support if they are to continue to be positive.
“Our economic forecast suggests that inflation is going to rise above the 2% target this year, which will create pressure on many firms. In addition, the fluctuating currency markets are affecting our exporters and importers – so there are warning signs on the horizon.
“The government cannot give businesses much certainty around either Brexit or currency markets, but it can act closer to home. The Chancellor’s Budget must focus on cutting the up-front costs that government imposes on every business, and promote investment and exports.”Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said: “UK exporters continue to be undeterred in their ambition to take their products and services overseas, despite turbulent economic times. “Whilst this confidence might come as a surprise during these uncertain times, the rapid evolution of e-commerce and technology means that more businesses than ever are realising the opportunity that exporting presents.“With online technology in overseas markets advancing, UK exporters should remain confident that their products are now more accessible than ever.”

 

Chambers of Commerce: Put practicality, certainty at the heart of Brexit negotiations
As the Chamber Network gathers in Westminster for the BCC Annual Conference, the British Chambers of Commerce has today (Tuesday) published a business blueprint for the UK government ahead of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
Titled Business Brexit Priorities, the report synthesizes feedback from over 400 businesses at 16 Chamber-hosted focus groups, along with nearly 20,000 responses to Chamber surveys. It puts forward priorities for action across seven key areas where business communities want practical solutions and certainty.
BCC evidence confirms that Europe will remain a key market for UK exporters and importers well into the future. As a consequence, it is imperative that the government achieves a pragmatic UK-EU deal that facilitates continued trade. 
The key recommendations in the report are:
On the Labour Market, the government should provide certainty for businesses on the residence rights of their existing EU workers, provide clarity on hiring from EU countries during the negotiation period, and avoid expensive and bureaucratic processes for post-Brexit hires from the EUOn Trade, the government should aim to minimise tariffs, seek to avoid costly non-tariff barriers, grandfather existing EU free trade agreements with third countries, and expand the trade mission programmeOn Customs, the government should develop future customs procedures at the UK border in partnership with business, seek to maintain the UK’s position as an entry point for global businesses to EuropeOn Tax, the government should guarantee that HMRC is appropriately resourced to help businesses through the transition process, and provide clarity on whether VAT legislation will continue to mirror current core VAT principlesOn Regulation, the government should ensure stability by incorporating existing EU regulations into UK law and maintaining these for a minimum period following Brexit, and ensure that product standards are aligned with, and recognised by, the EU to keep UK products competitiveOn EU funding, the government should maintain UK access to the European Investment Bank, and ensure there is no funding ‘cliff-edge’ for areas in receipt of EU fundingOn Northern Ireland, the government must avoid any return to a hard border, so that businesses can move people and goods as freely as possible.
Commenting on the report, Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:“Business communities across the UK want practical considerations, not ideology or politics, at the heart of the government's approach to Brexit negotiations. "What's debated in Westminster often isn't what matters for most businesses. Most firms care little about the exact process for triggering Article 50, but they care a lot about an unexpected VAT hit to their cash flow, sudden changes to regulation, the inability to recruit the right people for the job, or if their products are stopped by customs authorities at the border. The everyday nitty-gritty of doing business across borders must be front and centre in the negotiation process. "What's also clear is that the eventual Brexit deal is far from the only thing on the minds of the UK's business communities. An ambitious domestic agenda for business and the economy is also essential so that business can drive our post-Brexit success. Firms across the UK want a clear assurance that Brexit isn't going to be the only thing on the government's economic agenda for the next few years." Marcus Mason, Head of Business at the BCC, and author of the report, added:
“Since the historic vote on June 23, we have worked with Chamber business communities all across the UK to determine their key priorities for the Brexit transition.
“This report brings those practical priorities together and urges the government to adopt them in the forthcoming negotiations. Chambers of Commerce stand ready to help the government shape a pragmatic and practical approach to the coming transition, so that firms can continue to trade successfully with customers and suppliers across Europe and around the world.”