The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) ran its final World Trade Summit for 2019 in Birmingham on 28th November 2019, alongside the 12th Open to Export competition final.
Taking place during the weeks running up to the General Election in December, the summit speakers tried to look beyond the climate of political uncertainty to the opportunities that markets beyond the EU present UK businesses.
Representatives from the China Britain Business Council, The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce each spoke of the potential for UK businesses to grow through exports, regardless of the challenges Brexit currently presents.
Uncertainty is affecting UK businesses, but support is out there
The summit was hosted by Bibby Financial Services, who were also sponsors of the afternoon Open to Export showcase.
Jim Davis, Managing Director for Bibby, drew on some of the findings from their 2019 Global Business Monitor, noting that 26% of businesses polled said they had delayed funding commitments due to Brexit, with 66% saying Brexit was one of the top three threats to global economic growth. The political situation in the USA and interest rate rises were also listed as threats, though he argued that the rise of protectionism in global markets is also a serious concern for global trade in general.
Richard Bartlett, Director of Business Development at the IOE&IT and compere for the day, noted the practical impacts that Brexit could have for UK businesses, particularly around tariffs and rules of origin. He also gave an overview of the support the IOE&IT provides, including training, qualifications and our technical helpline.
Foreign exchange rates also continue to be a significant factor for exporters in the UK. Andrew Perris, UK Head of FX for Bibby Foreign Exchange Limited, gave an overview of the potential impacts of the likely results of the General Election and advised businesses on how they could manage potential future fluctuations.
A world beyond the EU
The one certainty in global trade right now is that there will be opportunity somewhere, even if uncertainty remains for the UK’s traditional trading partners. The commonwealth has long been touted as a future source of trade post Brexit and Keith Stokes-Smith, President of the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the scale of opportunity it presents.
He noted that the Commonwealth includes young and growing markets with half of the top 20 global emerging cities. While Australia, New Zealand and Canada were noted as prominent Commonwealth markets, he was keen to point out the significant growth opportunities in India, Nigeria and Kenya.
Stewart Ferguson, China Business Advisor at the China Britain Business Council, noted that the middle-income population of China is now the largest in the world at around 160 million. He warned of the cultural differences when selling to China, particularly their increasing demand for high quality goods and services.
Sergei Averin, from The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the prospects for UK businesses in Russia, allaying some concerns about the ease of doing trade transparently there, and he talked about the sizable network of chambers in Russia who are happy to support potential traders. He then gave the floor to Boris Obolenets, President of the Stavropol Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Elena Blinskaya, who spoke specifically of the opportunities in the Stavropol region.
Online opportunities on Amazon and Open to Export
John Newton, Group Marketing Director at Clickthrough Marketing, also spoke about the opportunities for businesses to tap into markets quickly and efficiently using Amazon. He noted that Amazon is by far the largest ecommerce market in the world and gave an overview of the different models for sellers operating on it.
Shan Hassam, Managing Director at Veenak International, and Tony Allen, Founder of Age Check Certification Scheme, both spoke on a case study panel about the support they’ve had entering new markets. Shan made particular reference to the proactive support Bibby have provided and advised smaller businesses that having a clear focus is essential to export success.
Tony Allen spoke of the UK’s leadership role in world trade in regard to standards and certification. In a precursor to his role as a judge the Open to Export Competition following the Summit and as a previous winner of the competition, he noted that his company had invested significantly in integrating international payment systems.
The Open to Export competition final that was to follow was an excellent showcase of SMEs continuing to look to international markets as a source of growth. The 8 SME finalists each impressed the judges with their coherent export plans, generated using the online planning tool on www.opentoexport.com, though only one winner could be announced.
The Bshirt won the £3000 prize sponsored by Bibby and you can read more about their win on the Open to Export website here.