IOE and IT chief calls for new UK import strategy in letter to chancellor ahead of Autumn Statement

Mon 6 Nov 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Features

Marco Forgione at no 11 Downing Street handing over a letter

Ahead of the Autumn Statement later this month, the head of the UK’s leading membership body for traders has called on the government to “develop a coherent import strategy”.

In a letter sent to chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Friday (3 November), the Institute of Export & International Trade’s (IOE&IT) director general, Marco Forgione, raised three key areas that the government should be prioritising to “ensure that more British businesses trade overseas”.

These three areas are: developing a new business growth plan, encouraging more MSMEs to trade using e-commerce platforms and finding ways to plug the UK’s skills gaps.

Business growth plan

Forgione wrote that the UK needs to “have a clear import strategy linked to the export strategy in support of a comprehensive long-term plan for business growth”.

He said the import strategy needs to “encompass the diversification of sources for critical raw materials, components and finished goods”. He said this was key to protecting supply chains and said that, by identifying sectors that are more reliant on imports, the UK would be better able to create “targeted policies” to encourage diversification and stimulate more domestic production.

E-commerce

Raising research from the Social Market Foundation last year that found that supporting 70,000 UK small businesses to export could boost the UK economy by £9.3bn, Forgione noted that the government needs to provide “more education and guidance” to encourage businesses to trade using e-commerce platforms.

He said the E-Commerce Trade Commission, which was convened earlier this year, was already bringing together the largest e-commerce platforms to offer guidance to the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) on what support is needed.

“With such potential benefits to the economy, more education and training is needed to guide small businesses to understand how to use these platforms in order to access new markets and government financial support for these education and training opportunities would be well placed to reap national economic benefit further down the line,” he wrote.

Skills

Forgione also wrote that it was “imperative” that the government found ways to “plug the UK’s skills gap” to ensure future business growth and to enable firms to make the most of opportunities in international markets.

He said reforming the apprenticeship model and revising funding models to ensure small businesses get better access to support were two key activities the government could prioritise to achieve this.

Important statement

With a general election likely to take place in 2024, the Autumn Statement is thought to be a key moment for the Conservative administration.

With economic growth in the UK still relatively stagnant, the chancellor is expected to announce that funding for public services will increase by no more than 1% per year until 2029, according to the Telegraph.

The Guardian also reports that Hunt is likely to reject calls to make cuts to corporate investment taxes permanent. 

However, the Daily Mail cites a paper from the Resolution Foundation that suggests the government has more ‘fiscal headroom’ than previously thought. It adds that the chancellor is eyeing up £10bn in tax cuts for businesses in a bid to head off a possible recession next year.