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News & Press: Blog

SMEs must start exporting to boost UK economy

31 January 2014  
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SMEs need to step up and move into overseas markets to boost the UK’s economic recovery.

But to achieve this will require the development of high growth products and the investment of both time and money – only then can a sustainable economic recovery take place.

These were the calls to action from our director general, Lesley Batchelor, who was invited to speak on Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money presented by Mickey Clarke and Sam Washington.

The invitation coincided with the publication of the latest GDP figures by the Office of National Statistics which revealed that the UK economy grew by 1.9% in 2013, its strongest rate since 2007.  Lesley was joined on the programme by Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI and Chris Bliss, director of Liverpool shopping centre Liverpool One.

Lesley’s appearance on 5 Live led to her also being interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s World at One presented by Martha Kearney. On both programmes, the director general explained that despite attempts by the Government to encourage expansion into overseas markets, there is still a huge reluctance from SMEs to take the risk because businesses are concerned about volatile exchange rates.

“SMEs don’t understand there are ways of mitigating those risks. I think really it’s a question of pulling it all together.

“UK Trade and Investment offers some brilliant schemes to take people into new markets and introduce them to customers and the IOE provides great training programmes that will help SMEs to understand how to maximise these opportunities,” Lesley explained.

As a result of this reluctance, Lesley highlighted that the UK economy was suffering and said that steps should be taken to prevent the export gap from widening. She suggested that one long term solution would be to educate younger members of society about international trade.

“The Institute believes passionately in what we are doing and we need to try and engage with young people to help them understand how important international trade is. It offers a fabulous and interesting career – but not enough people know about it.

“We need to embed international trade into the way we do business – making it a natural progression into a new market rather than a ‘let’s do it as an add-on – it’s an extra thing we’ll do if we’ve got time’. International trade should be embedded into your business strategy right from the start,” Lesley stressed.

The director general was also keen to emphasise that despite the current lull in exporting, the UK is in a strong position – and the way forward is for SMEs to produce an export strategy focusing on the correct market for their product.

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