Export Britain

John Longworth: Growing Britain through Exports

Director General of the BCC John Longworth highlights the need for a complete culture change when it comes to exporting, so that both businesses and government are always thinking global.


The economy has slowly started to recover since our inaugural trade conference a year ago, and
the monthly trade statistics have shown strong improvement since 2012 as we continue to rebalance
our economy towards net exports. Our trade surplus in services remains substantial, and we have every
opportunity to grow a relatively small but highly developed manufacturing sector.

Of course trade is a two way matter, and we in the Chamber Network are as interested in encouraging
inward investment and facilitating necessary imports as in boosting exports. Our business is
business in all manifestations.

I speak to Accredited Chamber members up and down the country, and for their part they have remained confident about their chances in the face of relentless media hysteria over the state of the economy. Our Quarterly Economic Surveys have consistently claimed that any negativity over the economy was misguided and that we would not face a triple dip recession – and we were proven right. Statistics have since suggested that there wasn’t even a double dip, adding further weight to the optimism held by so many of our members.

This confidence has certainly been replicated in the UK’s exporting performance. In a major international trade survey published by the BCC earlier this year, the share of businesses who are exporting has risen from 32% to 39%. However the survey also shows that businesses need more support in order to take the leap and break into new international markets.

We need a complete culture change when it comes to exporting, so that both businesses and government are always thinking global. Companies need help to forge new connections, and trade promotions and incentives will allow more to compete internationally. A renewed focus on language skills at school and in the workplace will also ensure that we continue to export the finest goods and services that Britain has to offer. We have to do all we can to encourage more and more UK companies to ‘have a go’ and take advantage of new markets overseas. There is no better way to develop this potential than through business helping business. Those who really know what it means to do business supporting those to whom it really matters. And that means Chambers of Commerce, a brand recognised throughout the world.

At the BCC, we are doing our bit, and I am delighted to say that alongside UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) we are in the process of accrediting British Chambers of Commerce in 21 key growth markets across the globe. This will give exporters a way into fast-growing countries, allowing them to access specialist trade support and services globally as well as locally. British businesses can now have confidence that the services they rely on here in the UK will also be available overseas.

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