Going Global Conference: Kevin Shakespeare urges SMEs to adapt to benefit from digital trade

Fri 18 Nov 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
IOE News

Going global 2022

As the Going Global conference returned in person post-pandemic, members of the international trading community returned to their regular haunt at the London Excel Arena.

Business leaders at the event spoke of both the difficulties they faced during the pandemic, but also the slow clearing of supply chains and the opportunities to trade internationally.

Adapting to the new trading environment was the key message of one of the IOE&IT’s senior members in a well-attended session at the heart of the convention centre.

Changing role of trade

“SMEs need to adapt” said Kevin Shakespeare, director of strategic projects and international development at The Institute of Export & International Trade, at his break-out session on international trade.

His session, entitled How Small businesses can benefit from digital trade, focused on the benefits of digitising international trade and the advantages for smaller organisations, as well as some of the pitfalls for those that don’t change practices.

“Trade is changing, and it’s important for some businesses to understand the impact that some of the new rules and systems are going to have.”

“Concepts like true origin, true consignor, provenance and traceability are now a ‘must’ for any business looking to trade internationally abroad.”

Shakespeare pointed to the fact that US customs authorities are now requiring importers to prove the origin of their goods or risk products being destroyed at the border.

He also pointed to upcoming reporting mechanisms like the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism, which will eventually require SMEs to complete ESG reporting.


Shakespeare said that key to this adaption was a series of new digital trade tools that are being worked on by both government and the private sector.

“Digital documents and legal entity identifiers are almost upon us.”

“In the UK, the IOE&IT is leading consortiums covering trade between the UK and Africa, as well as the EU and GB around digital trade and supply chain visibility at the start of the trade journey (and not the end of the trade journey).

“We are also working with several international partners in Africa and globally to support digital seals, provenance, traceability and ESG ratings.”

He ended with a call for businesses to shift attitudes towards trade compliance.

“Increasingly, compliance is no longer about being reactive, but now requires traders to be pro-active in their efforts to demonstrate compliance.”

Floor reaction

Claudia Lubbersen, an entrepreneur with Dutch e-commerce platform Pasper, said the presentation had been useful for her business.

“There was a lot of good information in there. It helped me build a full list of things that I need to take care of when exporting and importing” she said.

Many other attendees – ranging from SMEs to customs consultants – agreed with these sentiments.