2018 World Trade Summit report: 'Exporting is easy, when you know how'

Fri 2 Nov 2018
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News

baroness fairhead at the world trade summit

On 1st November 2018, the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) hosted its annual World Trade Summit in partnership with Barclays and the Policy Institute at King’s College London. The summit, taking place at Bush House in London, gathered key business leaders and decision-makers from both government and industry, including Baroness Fairhead (Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion), Louis Taylor (Chief Executive of UK Export Finance) and Chris Southworth (Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce). It was the centrepiece event of our year-long programme of summits throughout the UK.

A highlight of the 2018 export calendar

The day started with an introduction from the IOE&IT’s Director General, Lesley Batchelor OBE. Lesley updated the 200 plus delegates on some of the highlights of 2018 for the IOE&IT, including our work with the World Trade Organisation and International Chamber of Commerce on the ‘Open to Export International Business Awards’, and some key findings from our summits across the regions in the UK throughout the year.

Noting the potential impact of Brexit on UK businesses’ international supply chains, Lesley highlighted how the Institute is on hand to support UK businesses prepare for all the different potential outcomes of the negotiations with the EU, through its training courses, helpline, and qualifications.

Lesley at the World Trade Summit

New export research paper from Barclays and the Policy Institute at King’s College London

Lesley was then followed by Russ Grazier (Head of ECA Trade and Capital – London, Barclays) who was the first to mention a new research paper launched by Barclays and King’s College London’s Policy Institute at the summit.

The paper, entitled ‘Removing barriers to export growth: Regional and sectoral perspectives’, was also the focus of presentations by Mark Kleinman (Director of Analysis & Professor of Public Policy, King’s College Policy Institute), and Baroness Fairhead, who also gave an update on the work already being done by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) towards implementing the government’s Export Strategy that was launched in the summer.

russ grazier world trade summit

Russ, Mark and the Baroness revealed several key findings, including:

  • Improving export performance is intrinsically linked to overall economic performance
  • The UK needs more ‘Super Exporters’ – companies that export 10 or more products to 10 or more markets
  • The impact of creating more ‘Super Exporters’ is that more smaller businesses throughout the supply chain will then become more likely to export as well
  • The export supply landscape is strengthening but remains complicated and difficult to navigate for new exporters
  • Despite continuing uncertainty, Brexit has placed international trade into the centre of political debate, which has in turn increased awareness about export opportunities

Speaking of the increasing support for UK businesses, Baroness Fairhead noted that when she began her role with DIT, there were only 1,700 live export opportunities on great.gov.uk, but this has since increased to over 22,000. This along with increasing export funding from UKEF suggests steps are being made towards the actualisation of the export strategy’s ambition to raise exports as a percentage of UK GDP from 30% to 35%.

Roadmap to Export Success

The second part of the day saw Dr John Llewellyn (Partner, Llewellyn Consulting) and a panel consisting of Richard Morley (Customs Manager, Grant Thornton), Colin Kneller MBE (Director of Investigation, Harod Associates) and Toni Allen (EMEA Marketing Director, British Standards Institute) give advice on how businesses can plan their ‘roadmap to export success’ – a key theme throughout our 2018 regional trade summit programme.

roadmap to export success

Dr Llewellyn began the session by presenting a case for why international trade is a good thing for both economies and businesses, giving an overview of the economic climate in international trade, before assessing the potential economic shock that Brexit could have and the processes and time involved in recalibrating the UK’s economic system after it. The panel then gave practical advice about how AEO and standards can act as ways of safeguarding business’ international supply chains, whatever happens with Brexit.

Mixing it up – Atom Brands show us how it’s really done         

The final session of the day was kicked off by an inspiring case study presentation from Nick Ravenhall (Global Head of Sales, Atom Brands). Nick spoke of his experiences exporting Atom Brands’ range of craft gins and whiskies around the world. Indeed, some of this product range was showcased during the evening drinks’ reception at the end of the summit, to the delight of most delegates.

His advice to look at export markets as international interest communities, focussing on the people who care about what you do rather than just looking at geographical markets, was an important point and something which often gets overlooked in many international trade strategies.

Nick was followed up by Louis Taylor from UKEF who followed Baroness Fairhead in talking about the increasing support being provided by UKEF, who now provide financing for businesses to export into over 100 countries in 62 different currencies.

Trade Wars and Free Trade

free trade panel world trade summit

The final panel discussion of the day tackled ‘Trade Wars and Free Trade’. Moderated by Will Hobbs (Head of Investment Strategy, Barclays), Chris Southworth and Jessica Gladstone (Clifford Chance, Partner) were joined by Nick again to give an update on the latest developments in international trade at an organisational and legal level.

Chris and Jessica both noted how the ongoing blockages to the filling of positions on the WTO appellate body – a key body responsible for mediating international trade disputes – was a serious threat to the ability of the WTO to preside over a rules-based trading system and a potential precursor to a worsening of the burgeoning revival of international trade wars, particularly between the USA and China.

Chris noted that the UK will need to become much more adept at the nuanced politics of international trade – something it hasn’t had to be too involved in at an industry level while a member of the EU’s single market. In describing some of the ongoing debates at WTO level, he mentioned the tensions between liberalised trade in developed markets and the desire to share the benefits of trade among developing nations too.

On a more practical note, Nick made the point that businesses shouldn’t wait for trade disputes between major nations to resolve themselves, arguing that the best way to do business is to just get on with it and to make the most of the opportunities that are out there. This important point was echoed by Jessica who noted that the only certainty in business right now is uncertainty, so uncertainty can’t be used as a reason to delay going out there and trying to do business.

Exporting is easy when you know how

Closing what was another information-packed World Trade Summit, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint (President of the IOE&IT) argued that increasing exports is a fundamental requirement for the future of the UK economy, especially as it looks to become more independent and less reliant on being a consumer of other markets. He concluded that this can only be achieved if companies learn how to do international trade properly – something the IOE&IT is on hand to support with, through its training courses and qualifications, and through events like the World Trade Summit.

atom brands drinks reception at the world trade summit