Government-business collaboration hailed in Import Export Show Q and A

Wed 15 Nov 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News
Marco Forgione and DBT official Martin Cook

The morning session of the inaugural Import Export Show played host today (15 November) to a Q&A session between Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) director general, Marco Forgione, and Martin Cook, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) director of UK exports, on the potential for government and business to collaborate in an “export-led recovery”.

Need for stability

An opening poll indicated that most of those in attendance were representing small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), and Forgione highlighted that over 90% of all UK businesses were small businesses whose capacity to export is often determined by the complexity of regulations.

Rules around exporting were a recurring theme, and the “biggest ask” for businesses, Forgione said, is stability.

Long-term business decisions are enabled by a stable regulatory regime. Frequent changes can often make it too complicated for small companies to go through the sometimes-complex steps required to export, Forgione argued. The people running these small firms have a wide range of other responsibilities already.

‘Understanding networks’

Making the processes around export simpler is a focus of DBT, Cook added:

“We try to understand the barriers firms are facing. Some are general and some are specific – different countries and markets can have their own hurdles.

“Understanding networks and markets is particularly important for SMEs, and part of our job is to help us navigate those things.”

‘Amazing things’

He was upbeat about the capacity of businesses of various sizes to collaborate with government in growing exports, putting emphasis on their unique roles.

“I believe that when government and business work together they can do amazing things.

“It’s obvious, but government doesn’t generate the revenue, it just creates the conditions for growth. It’s all of you out there who make the difference, create the jobs.”

Forgione made a note of changes to the UK border over the next year, and agreed with a point put by Cook on the need to make import and export information more easily available in digital form for those who need it – something he said DBT are working on at the moment.

Digital boost

Digitalisation of trade can also increase the speed of trade while reducing the requirements for stop-and-check and increasing profitability, Forgione suggested.

“Transformation can occur by implementing digital techniques, systems and processes, but to reap the benefit businesses need to know what to do and government partners need to be integrated with that approach.”

The final word came from Cook, who urged businesses to “come and talk to us” at DBT and said that “government does respond” to what businesses tell them.