Government should 'look afresh' at export support and consider competitor schemes

Mon 9 Aug 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Union Jack

UK export support should be better funded to match what is being offered to SMEs in other countries, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has argued.

The trade body’s demand follows the controversial scrapping of the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) in July.

“If our international competitors have better schemes than us, it is only right to look afresh at what more can be done to put ‘Made in the UK’ on other nations’ shelves,” FSB national chairman Mike Cherry told the Times.

Short sighted

TAP provided grants for exporters and would-be exporters to exhibit at international trade show and was closed.

The decision to scrap the scheme was criticised as short-sighted by a number of trade associations, who wrote to export minister Graham Stuart to say the scheme allowed smaller businesses to find new export markets.

New approach

The government has promised a replacement, but no details have arrived yet.

“The UK has generous and comprehensive packages of support to help our brilliant exporters take advantage of the trade deals we negotiate," a Department for International Trade spokesperson said.

“We want trade shows that work better for businesses in every part of the country, and support our vision for an export-led recovery from the pandemic," they added. "We look forward to setting out this new approach ahead of our revamped Export Strategy later this year.”

New plan

The FSB has proposed its own five-point plan for a new programme, including spreading trade show access support more evenly across the UK, increasing the level of support, and streamlining administration to make support easier to access.

In calling for a review of the UK’s export support, the FSB highlighted the performance of other nations’ equivalent schemes including Canada’s CanExport.

CanExport provides up to $75,000 covering up to 75% of costs for export marketing in new markets and can be used for a broad range of services.

Other rivals

Elsewhere, Australian SMEs can apply for export development grants of up to $770,000 per applicant over eight financial years for promotional activities to market eligible products in foreign countries, or training activities to develop skills in such marketing.

Germany’s Mittlestand Goes Global programme supports exporters in ‘forward looking’ industries such as environment, technology and civil security.