IOE&IT Director General, Lesley Batchelor OBE, appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning which was looking at UK exports ahead of the latest monthly ONS trade stats out today.
Lesley joined reporter Steph McGovern at IOE&IT corporate member Camira Fabrics factory in Meltham. A significant exporter, Camira won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2016.
A transcript of the segment is below:
Steph McGovern: I’m in a brilliant textile mill, Camira Fabrics. This is a business which makes something like eight million metres of fabric every year. It’s the kind of fabric you’d see on bus seats, tubes as well you might even be sitting on some of that at some point today. It’s a business that exports a lot and that’s what we’re talking about at the moment – trade and how we can increase the trade that we do around the world. A big issue for the election and also for Brexit. With us we have Lesley Bachelor who is from the Institute of Export. Good morning Lesley, what are your thoughts on how we’re doing in terms of trade at the moment?
Lesley Batchelor, Institute of Export & International Trade: Well I think we’re holding our own and I’m quite surprised it’s gone as well as it has. It’s been hard for some of the manufacturers that are importing and also the cost of freight as well because of the dollar etc. You know, it’s all been quite challenging but I think exporting is all about challenges.
Steph: This business is growing 10 percent year on year, doing incredibly well, they export to something like 80 different countries, how do we replicate that?
Lesley: Well, I think, I was talking to Grant [Grant Russell, CEO Camira Fabrics] earlier and he talks about how much research he does and how he’s careful before he gets into any new market and how he finds out everything he can about what’s going on and I think it’s a habit we’ve got to get back into – find out all the detail, not just the surface.
Steph: That’s hard for businesses when they’ve got a lot going on isn’t it?
Lesley: It is hard but I think, you know, we mustn’t forget there’s a lot of help out there. The government have got the great the Department for International Trade now, we’re always out there, the Institute is always happy to help people. You know, there’s more help than you realise.
Steph: Lesley, thank you very much for your time this morning. The reason why we’re talking about this is because we’ve got the latest trade figures out this morning. We currently are in a trade deficit which means we import more goods and services than we actually export, than we sell abroad. Now of course that means it can put a lot of pressure on the economy in terms of our reliance on other countries and the currencies around the world but there’s also regional differences around the UK as well in terms of how each of them are doing. Paul is from the Centre for Cities, you’ve done a lot of research on this haven’t you? Tell us who’s good and who could do better.
Paul Swinney, Centre for Cities: Well we see Sunderland comes out as top, partly ‘cause of Nissan and the automotive that’s there, we see places like Worthing doing very well as well which perhaps is not what you would expect. We do see places like Huddersfield, other cities across Yorkshire don’t tend to do very well and it’s a bit of an issue there about how much their exporting, what does that mean for jobs and what does that mean for money in people’s pockets.
Steph: And what could those areas that aren’t doing so well do to be better at it, what’s the difference?
Paul: I think the key thing is that places lioke Hudddersfield, there aren’t enough businesses like this that are exporting and thinking about thinking why is that? A lot of it comes down to skilsl – have we got enough people with the right skills that are going to attract businesses in that are going to grow their business and look to export around the world.
Steph: Now you mention Sunderland there, they’ve obviously got Nissan and that can make a big difference, it’s just one business. But then that’s a bit of a worry if you’re just relying on the one as well?
Paul: Well indeed, and I think wqhen we’re talking about trade deals around the world as well, I think obviously it becomes very very sensitive in terms of, if you don’t get the right deal for one company that can have a big impact on one place. I think all cities need to be thinking about how can we export more but actually export more from a range of different industries. I think when we’re doing trade deals we need to think about doing a deal for all sectors and not just one sector because actually we export across a lot of different areas.
Steph: Yeah, and obviously we’re in a manufacturing sector but services is a massive one for us.
Paul: Absolutely. I think people tend to think about goods when they think about exports but actually services plays a huge role, particularly when we see some of our more successful cities in the greater South East. They actually export a lot of services rather than exporting a lot of goods and we need to think about how do we encourage that and encourage places that aren’t doing very well in terms of exports to actually get more services businesses and export more of those services too.