IOE Among Leading Experts in FT Debate on Driving UK Exports

Fri 6 Sept 2013
Posted by: IOE News
IOE News
As UK exports remain high on the news agenda, our Director General Lesley Batchelor has featured on BBC Breakfast TV and on a high-profile panel discussion spearheaded by the Financial Times.

Lesley was interviewed ahead of the latest Office for National Statistics trade figures, which revealed that production output decreased by 1.6% between July 2012 and July 2013 and that manufacturing fell by 0.7% over the same period.

Lesley outlined how UK exports are performing well – with a slight drop in exports to Europe but an overall 10% increase for the rest of the world.

The Director General also made a key contribution to the FT’s ‘Rising to the Export Challenge’ discussion, alongside Nick Baird – Chief Executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), Will Butler-Adams – CEO of Brompton Bicycles, Phil Couchman – Chief Executive of DHL Express UK & Ireland and Alan Garwood – Group Business Development Director of BAE Systems.

The strategic briefing was facilitated by the FT’s UK Business Editor, Brian Groom, and key questions surrounding the lively debate centred on:

  • If the government’s aim to double annual UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020 is achievable and how it can be fulfilled,
  • Where the best growth prospects lie,
  • The obstacles companies face and how to overcome them,
  • The benefits (and pitfalls) of exporting,
  • Howe to engaging more SMEs in exporting, and
  • What the evolving political risk map for trade and investment looks like.

Brian Groom reinforced the current enthusiasm surrounding exporting – and whether a recovery in the domestic UK market will result in companies taking their foot off the export pedal.

Will Butler-Adams and Alan Garwood agreed that UK companies need to jump into exporting, and that it’s easier than it looks, while Lesley Batchelor and Phil Couchman agreed that underlying research is needed before starting to export – to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

All panellists concurred that the UK export market has fantastic potential and companies should take advantage of the free advice available from the Institute of Export and UKTI.

They also agreed that markets such as Australia, USA, Europe and the Ukraine have been the biggest success stories in terms of exporting, and that BRIC countries are the hardest – with China and Russia remaining big prizes.

Lesley Batchelor’s key messages included the importance of helping SME’s to learn how to negotiate if they are driving exports through huge corporate companies – highlighting Nissan’s powerful supply chain engagement, ensuring everyone is involved in the exporting process.

The Director General also reinforced how the IOE adds value by giving advice – and putting ideas into context – along with a desire to embed the idea of trade into young people and their education.

The panellists also heard Lesley encouraging companies to attend trade exhibitions to get a feel of global markets – even if they don’t intend to export.

Lesley said: “It’s important that we remember that Britain is a great trading nation and this was a message I was keen to relay. The lively debate brought wide-ranging views – from ‘exporting is easy, you just ask for the money up front and then other people worry about delivery’, to looking at how smaller businesses can engage with larger manufacturers to benefit from the opportunities available.

“DHL’s perspective was likewise interesting as they see many exporters from e-commerce sites – an area that the IOE is exploring with potential partners to help provide better support for the accidental exporters.”