UK businesses have been told that the time has arrived to revisit international trade and to look at exporting as a means to growth at today’s MemberCon23 conference hosted by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) in Liverpool today (5 July).
Exports minister Lord Offord was among a line-up of government and industry leaders to speak at the event and said the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) was committed to working “side-by-side” with the IOE&IT to help businesses thrive in overseas markets.
Delegates were praised by IOE&IT chief operating officer Kelly Rawles for continuing exporting in recent years, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine.
However, she said industry and government now need to work together to raise awareness of the opportunities that still exist in international markets and to equip them with the skills needed to export successfully.
Dan Carden, the MP for Liverpool Walton, agreed with Rawles, saying it was crucial to support businesses to “rebuild” following a challenging period.
Welcoming the delegates to his hometown of Liverpool, he said:
“You have endured wave after wave of challenges, from the impacts of the pandemic to the fallout of the war in Ukraine.
“This is why it is more crucial than ever that businesses like yours have the support they need to rebuild after this difficult period and to trade with confidence with markets across the world.”
This year’s member conference put a particular emphasis on giving traders practical advice on how to trade internationally and featured panel discussions covering how UK businesses can benefit from the country’s new free trade agreements and freeports.
Lord Offord, addressing the delegates by video, said it was his “mission” to harness the “export potential that exists across the UK”. This includes helping businesses to benefit from the UK’s new trade deals, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), into which the government recently agreed accession.
“We have signed deals with more than 70 countries so far, accounting for over £1tr in UK trade, but there’s still more to do.
“We’re working around the clock to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with India and, when we join the CPTPP, almost 99% of our goods exports to a £9trn trade bloc, made up of eleven Pacific nations, will be free from tariffs.”
He added that the DBT has been “working side-by-side with the IOE&IT to encourage more businesses to take advantage of our trade agreements”.
Rawles told delegates that IOE&IT is committed to supporting businesses to trade and noted how the organisation had just launched a new initiative providing £5m in support for businesses expanding overseas.
“We are deeply aware at IOE&IT just how tough this period has been for so many of you in this room and we have been working hard to support you both through our training and education expertise, while also providing new solutions to support UK businesses to begin exporting.
“That’s why, coinciding with the World MSME Day last week, we launched a £5m Export Support Programme which aims to provide up to 1,250 businesses with the necessary training to expand internationally.”
She added that IOE&IT is looking to tackle “existing trade barriers, simplify pathways to trade and incentivise small businesses” to trade internationally via e-commerce platforms when referring to the recent launch of the IOE&IT-led E-Commerce Trade Commission.
In her closing remarks, Rawles said she hoped that delegates would leave the event with “3 I’s”:
“You should feel inspired to trade more, benefit from the insights provided by the speakers and their fellow members and be ready to implement this practical advice to succeed in overseas markets.”
Helen Hastie, IOE&IT’s membership development manager and the host of MemberCon23, also said that she was hopeful that delegates would leave the event feeling inspired by the programme.
Referring to some of the other panel discussions during the day – including session focussing on ‘greening supply chains’ and ‘managing costs in international trade’ – she said:
“We’ve journeyed together today through the international trade landscape in Liverpool, nationally and beyond.
“We’ve heard from leading experts and government ministers on how to make the most of the 70+ trade agreements available and we will all be walking away with more knowledge on best practice in supply chain management and authorisations to support trade in a green and sustainable manner.”