The Cost-of-Living crisis we are facing at the moment is a dark period for all of us. One of the key means we have to redress the situation is through growth, and increased export trade is a particularly effective form of growth. That’s why I was pleased to mark the UK’s International Trade Week last week by hosting an ‘Export Showcase’ roundtable for local businesses in Maidstone’s town hall.
Now we have left the constraints of the EU trading bloc there is huge potential to expand into other countries around the world. According to the Confederation of British Industry, companies that trade internationally become more productive, more innovative and more sustainable. They also make a significant positive impact on our regional and national economies, and yet less than 10% of UK businesses currently export.
I teamed up with the Department for International Trade (DIT), Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council in organizing the event and I thank them for their help in bringing so many people together.
The Garden of England in the Weald of Kent was well represented, with delegates from the agricultural sector; including Kent Crisps from Clapper Lane in Staplehurst, the excellent nearby vineyards of the Balfour Winery, and Owletts Apple Juice from Loddington Farm, Linton. But the range of sectors who came along was much wider; bio-medical manufacture, precision polishing, gin distilling and medical furniture to name a few. Some were considering going into export whilst others looking to extend their reach and find new ways to overcome obstacles. I must say how encouraged I was to see the appetite for export help and expertise, because the determination of these businesses will surely drive-up employment, wages and prosperity in our communities here in Maidstone and The Weald.
Experts from UK Export Finance were on hand to offer advice on a number of potentially significant barriers when beginning to trade abroad, such as financing a contract, how to guarantee receiving payment and obtaining export insurance cover. The DIT’s UK Export Academy was also being promoted - a free training service, delivered online and in face-to-face sessions, at both foundation and masterclass levels. The service also offers bespoke sector information about opportunities in markets of interest, including the benefits of new free trade agreements as they unfold. There were International Trade Advisors at the event as well – people you can go if problems arise - like getting goods unstuck in customs, understanding trade agreements and deciphering product codes.
All in all it was a really positive roundtable and I hope to repeat it in the future. I would urge any business to look into the wide range of support available to help get an export department trading successfully. For local export support from DIT’s South East team, or for advice from an International Trade Adviser, contact DITSE@trade.gov.uk. Details of the UK Export Academy can be found here: https://www.events.great.gov.uk/website/6264/ and the UK Export Finance team details are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-export-finance