A man shows his colleague information. Brexit poses both challenges and opportunities in export.

Making the most of export opportunities

Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP, discussed key topics for UK exporters in 2021 and beyond at a recent Barclays Corporate Banking virtual event.

Key takeaways

  • Help and guidance available from DIT's international trade advisers and sector specialists
  • Financial support through a range of products from UK Export Finance
  • Digital resources to be expanded and an Export Academy pilot under way

The Minister for Exports shared his insight on how UK businesses can prepare for the trading challenges and opportunities ahead. Joining him at the virtual event on 11 November 2020 was James Binns, Head of Trade and Working Capital for Barclays.

Support from the Department for International Trade (DIT)

The Minister illustrated the government’s focus on exports by outlining the DIT’s three main priorities:

  1. promoting investment
  2. promoting exports
  3. removing trade barriers e.g. by establishing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other countries.

UK companies can tap into support from the DIT’s 300 international trade advisers and nine regional offices across England, whether it’s how to start exporting or how to expand their export activity. The DIT also works closely with relevant organisations within the devolved administrations. 

In addition to guidance from 400 volunteer export champions around England, plus sector specialists based throughout the UK and globally, businesses can also look to the government’s dedicated export finance agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF).

Resources available

To help make resources accessible to all, the Minister highlighted his vision for providing more digital services, which already include the GREAT.gov.uk website. The Minister was also clear that the government want to do more for SMEs who want to export, and to help them through the pandemic, the DIT’s recently launched Export Growth Plan includes a £38 million Internationalisation Fund to help up to 7,600 small businesses in England.

The Minister added he hoped mentoring schemes and the pilot of the DIT’s Export Academy would play a part in improving education about the opportunities for exporting – and added he is keen to work with Barclays in achieving these goals. 

Barclays and DIT

The Minister highlighted UKEF’s key role as the world’s leading export credit agency and a trailblazer in boosting export trade, with a broad set of products, ranging from credit insurance to supply chain finance and export facilities with government-backed guarantees.

Barclays continues to work closely with UKEF on many of these products, including the Export Working Capital Support Scheme and Bond Support Scheme (for SMEs), the Export Development Guarantee Facility (for larger companies) and the UKEF Buyer Credit programmes. Barclays has also been involved in the development of the General Export Facility, which aims to support smaller businesses with cash flow without being tied to specific contracts.

Barclays is also supporting around 9,500 UK export businesses through our 260 trade and working capital specialists in the UK and overseas, as well as our partnership with the DIT.

Preparing for a new relationship with the EU

The Minister warned that not enough businesses are properly prepared for the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of this year, and he urged them to use tools like the government’s transition website, which gives businesses up-to-date information on how to prepare for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. 

Barclays is also helping  businesses to prepare for the changes ahead through regular webinars with a range of experts providing guidance and support on trading abroad during this uncertain time. You can also register for Barclays’ regular Trade and Export Brexit emails to help businesses stay abreast of the latest updates and thought leadership materials as well as links to key HM Govt. post-Brexit Transition Period guidance and information. Guest speakers have included advisers from UKEF, the Institute for Exports and Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America. 

Replays of these events can be accessed here [insert link]. We are also keeping businesses up-to-date with the latest announcements from government and advice on what they need to do in order to prepare for the changes ahead.

Free Trade Agreements

The Minister highlighted the government’s ambitions regarding FTAs with countries outside the EU, including future plans for the UK to sign up to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a group of 11 nations including Japan, Australia, and Singapore.

Underlining the potential for exports, he said the UK needed to align its trading activities with the parts of the world showing the fastest growth, and added that according to the IMF, in the next five years, almost 90% of growth would be outside the EU. The Minister also drew attention to the UK overtaking France in 2019 to become the world’s fifth largest exporter.

While stressing the importance of FTAs, and citing recent new agreements with Japan and Kenya, the Minister added that the absence of an FTA wasn’t a reason not to export to a particular country. If there is an opportunity to export, he urged businesses to take it. 

The Minister also commented on trade talks with the United States, emphasising that it is the single biggest importer of UK goods and services outside the EU and that historical and ongoing close ties with the US mean the government is positive about the continuing trade talks between UK and US officials.

UK brands in high regard

The Minister concluded by stressing how highly regarded UK products are around the world, providing great opportunities for UK companies in new markets, such as Latin America, that they might not have considered before. Whether a small or large business, the global demand for British goods is a reason to be positive – especially if businesses use technological innovation to help them expand into these new markets. 

While there may be some complexity and uncertainty to navigate at the moment, UK businesses should take advantage of the range of export resources available – both from the DIT and Barclays. For its part, Barclays continues to be agile in responding to trading developments and in engaging with our customers, as well as supporting the government’s focus on export growth.

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