“Demonstrates a lack of familiarity with exporting and an over-reliance on limited sources of input.” That is our response to the recent findings of the Cole Commission report which highlighted the need for greater support for SMEs to “go global”.
Whilst the Institute broadly welcomes the commission’s general thrust of greater focus and coordination of exports within government and across the public and private sector; improved support for SMEs and qualifications in international trade, we feel that the report is ‘somewhat lacking in a number of areas’.
Having claimed a wide range of consultation, the report betrays a lack of familiarity in some key areas including the core subject, historical issues and the importance of market dynamics. This may in part be due to an over-reliance on limited sources of input at the expense of a more granular investigation
We agree that the idea of a ‘One Stop Shop’ is as appealing now as it was when first mooted by Lord Heseltine, but past experience shows that it is difficult to implement such an initiative in a way that truly delivers the objective to the standard required. It is also questionable whether the relationship between the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and local Chambers, as currently configured, would be well placed to drive through implementation comprehensively to the standard required. Our support for the suggestion that the BCC delivers the ‘One Stop Shop’ would have been stronger had they not had a representative on the commission panel.
Similarly, the argument for greater cohesion between UKTI and UKEF and aligning accountability to Ministers ignores the fact that there is clear evidence of greater cooperation between the two already. It is important that the next step in this process builds upon current momentum and does not disrupt it.
It is also notable that the bank feedback on UKEF quotes extensively from one bank. Commentary on the short-term schemes would have been better balanced if input from this sector had included either of the two banks that contribute some 75% utilisation under the relevant schemes, and therefore speak with commensurate authority.
Finally, in calling for qualifications in international trade, the report completely missed the fact that we already offer a complete range of Ofqual accredited qualifications in all aspects of international trade – from age 16 right up to a Master’s Degree – despite a submission to this fact being made to the commission.
Our director general, Lesley Batchelor OBE said: “The Cole Commission Report highlights the need for one essential commodity – knowledge. It is knowledge that will overcome the barriers that SMEs experience in trading internationally and yet we know that this knowledge already exists in the long tradition of British entrepreneurship and global trading.
“For the past 80 years the Institute of Export has been the custodian of best practice in export and international trade. As a registered charity and comprised of businesses and business people with a wealth of experience and who are passionately committed to furthering professionalism in international trade, we are uniquely placed to share our expertise with businesses who are struggling to make the leap into new markets.”