The Institute of Export & International Trade returned to the South West region for its latest regional World Trade Summit, with our members and thought leaders from the world of international trade gathering to share insights and give advice around the theme of sketching a ‘roadmap to export success’.
The Institute’s Regional Director for the South West, Linda Middleton-Jones, compered the event, hosted at Grant Thornton’s offices in Bristol. In her introductory comments she highlighted some of the challenges involved international trade, the work the Institute does to help exporters and its members, and also updated delegates on the activity of members in the South West – one of our most active region.
She also made the point that this year’s summit coincided with the US Independence Day (July 4th) and many of the speaker presentations consequently had a USA focus. Dr Frank Levene from Avitus Group, for instance, highlighted the size and breadth of the US market. Though the USA and UK do share many things in common in regard to language, culture and history, he made the important point that many in the UK may not have a full sense of the diverse range of markets that the US could be said to comprise – not just the east coast, west coast, and Texas!
Picking up on the US theme, Ian Metcalf, Chief Representative for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, delved into just one of these less discussed markets in Fairfax County - a region with many potential opportunities for UK businesses. Both he and fellow speaker Alastair Mitton, a Partner at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, made mention of less famous but still significant cities and potential business destinations in the US, including Reston and Tysons Corner.
Alastair Mitton also highlighted the subtle differences between UK and US use of language in a business environment, advising that potential US business partners may take more of what we say at face value than we intend. He also gave legal advice to companies looking to sell into the US, while Tim Burden from Lloyds Banking discussed some of the financial challenges and solutions for overcoming them that exporters to the US should be aware of. John Worthington, Partner at IBT Online, also drew on his vast experience advising companies selling into the US to advise again that it needs to be considered as a collection of multiple and varying markets, with each one requiring an online marketing and sales campaign that is regionally specific, not US-wide.
As ever with exporting, those doing business with the USA need to be aware of various regulatory requirements and challenges. William Diaz (Fragomen) outlined some of the immigration strategies that companies looking to set up in the US, or even just visit to meet with US partners, need to be aware of. Gary Baylis (Export Access) also gave an introduction to the various regulations and technical specifications and definitions involved in dealing with the US Food & Drug Administration.
Away from the USA, Adam Taylor, Customs & Excise Duties Senior Manager for Grant Tornton LLP, reprised a presentation on the practicalities of an EU-UK FTA that he made in Coventry in 2017 – though not all that much has changed in terms of what we know about this potential FTA since that summit! In regards to Brexit, we also heard an update from Terry Burke at Bibby Financial Services about their ‘Trading Paces’ report into the views of UK exporters about international trade, which included the finding that UK exporters have experienced on average a loss of around £69000 due to currency fluctuations since the Brexit referendum.
And as ever with the summits, it was always great to hear from companies who are out there doing the job of exporting themselves. Jenny Latalese from Renishaw plc and Gail Leeson from Thales Group – both regular attendees of our regional South West Members’ Meetings – were joined by Caroline Sparks, from previous Export Action Plan finalists Turtle Tots, for a panel discussion chaired by Maria Malinowska MIEx (Grad) – a Trustee Director with the Institute. Each discussed how they’ve used some of the support available in the South West region to overcome the challenges they face in export, before Frances Fawcett (International Trade Matters Ltd) discussed the need to continue encouraging and supporting companies looking to export properly and knowledgeably – especially those that are ‘Born Global’.
The regional trade summit programme will now be taking a short break for August before hitting the road again in September when we will be heading to Liverpool.