Boost services export potential across all the UK to 'press home UK's advantage', says MP

Tue 5 Sept 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Marco Forgione at Global Horizons launch on trade in services in Westminster

The UK needs to “press home its advantage” as the world’s second largest services exporter by “empowering every corner” of the country to follow the lead taken in recent decades by London and the south east of England, MP Martin Vickers said at a trade policy event last night (4 September).

Parliamentarians and business leaders gathered in the House of Commons to discuss the need to ‘level up’ services exports across all regions and nations in the UK at the launch of a new policy paper from the Institute of Export & International Trade’s (IOE&IT).

The report, titled ‘Global horizons: Realising the services export potential of UK nations and regions’, was published yesterday evening and was co-written with consultancy firm Flint Global.

The study included a new, data-led framework that sought to identify the ‘services export potential’ (SEP) of different regions throughout the UK, matching this against their ‘actual services exports’ (ASE), and then diagnosing what investment and policy support is needed to increase ASE or SEP in underperforming or low-potential regions.

Moving beyond London

Vickers, who is a trade envoy to the West Balkans, spoke alongside exports minister Lord Offord and IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione in the Churchill Room in Parliament to mark the launch of the new paper.

Referring to the study’s SEP framework, he said:

“As the report sets out, UK businesses need to take advantage of the services export potential, that’s the message I want to emphasise. I look forward to working with the IOE&IT and its members in developing this potential.

“We have great potential, let’s go out there and sell ourselves.”

‘Faster, quicker, better’

Lord Offord was keen to point out that services exports from the UK have remained strong despite the challenges posed by the UK’s departure from the EU and the pandemic, pointing out that exports to the EU remain broadly in line with where they were in 2019.

He added that more needed to be done to create a better “narrative” to explain what services businesses are, including how they contribute to the wider UK economy.

“There’s a quite a lot going on outside of London, we need to get more of it faster, quicker and better,” he said.

Services key to economy

IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione said that the UK economy is “fundamentally built on trade in services”, pointing out that goods manufacturing sectors are increasingly supported by services businesses.

He said that there are increasing opportunities in the global marketplace for UK services businesses too, citing comments from Chinese premier Xi Jinping over the weekend that China is looking to open its services market to the world.

‘Clarion call’

Forgione also had three key asks for government and industry following the publication of the new paper.

Firstly, he said that a “paucity of data” on services trade needs to be addressed, noting that the study’s SEP metrics were limited in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland due to a lack of available information.

Secondly, he made a “clarion call” for the UK to invest more in the clusters and hubs across the country where services are already performing well, as indicated by metrics in the paper.

Thirdly, he said the UK government needs to establish a “regional trade-in-services taskforce”.