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Is Cool Britannia’s Cultural Currency a Hot Prospect for UK Exporters?

30 July 2013  
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The heartening news that UK exports are at their highest level since the recession has coincided with an invitation for the Institute of Export (IOE) to be a key witness at The House of Lords’ Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s influence.

This committee is looking at to what extent the UK social, political and business has an impact on businesses exporting.

At the same time a new report is testament to the hard work, tenacity and innovation demonstrated by the type of vibrant companies we work with at the Institute of Export.

The report’s findings for the second quarter of 2013 based on responses from more than 1,700 businesses and include:

  • export orders for service firms hit a record high
  • 42% of manufacturing firms reported higher export sales
  • 31% of firms expect to increase staff this year

The House of Lords invitation to our Director General Lesley Batchelor was a timely reminder how exporters across the world can be helped or even hindered by the ‘soft powers’ that include their respective government’s foreign policies, its political values and the culture of their country.  For example, if the UK is perceived as having ethical and trusted political and business cultures are its export prospects improved?

The IOE welcomed the opportunity to offer our expert opinion on the potential impact of “soft power” on the ability of our members to trade across the globe. David Maisey, Board Member Elect of the IOE and Chief Executive Officer of ICC Solutions represented the institute at the hearing and addressed a number of questions which will help shape a report from the committee.

David’s high performing company – acknowledged as a global leader in providing chip PIN test and certification tools is a double winner of The Queens Awards for Enterprise 2012 in both the International Trade and the Innovation categories. The Awards constitute excellent examples of “soft power” due to their strong currency globally as their kudos and credibility can open doors and help win business.

The phenomenal success of last summers London 2012 Olympics also boosted the “Cool Britannia” brand internationally reinforced with the UK being ranked the worlds most powerful nation in terms of cultural influence, according to Monocle magazines annual soft power survey.

One of the key questions that David Maisey addressed on the IOE’s behalf related to “soft power” and whether UK businesses are using it to its full potential as well as whether UK exporters are taking full advantage of the Commonwealth.

Between them, Commonwealth countries traded around US$4 trillion worth of goods in 2008. Over the last two decades, the importance of Commonwealth members to each other as sources of imports and destinations for exports has grown by around a quarter and third respectively.

Going forwards, however, could the “soft power” of the Commonwealth be underutilised? Research shows the comparative advantage of historical ties is likely to diminish due to a rapidly changing global economic landscape and the increasing ease of conducting business across the globe.

The fact that almost 10 per cent of current Commonwealth member states have not been British Colonies – coupled with the prospect of more new members with little historical ties can likewise contribute to the “soft power” diminishing.

Has “soft power” helped your business whether thats capitalising on the 2012 Olympics, the Commonwealth or even the new Royal baby? Why not send us a Tweet about your success on @IOExport. You can follow our Director General Lesley Batchelor on @LesleyIOExport