THE BLOG

Exporting for Success

13/02/2014 09:30 GMT | Updated 14/04/2014 10:59 BST

Things are looking up. Last quarter's 0.7% GDP growth places Britain among the fastest recovering advanced economies in the world, and forecasters describe a conspicuous turning point in the country's fortunes.

But translating improving economic indicators into strong, sustained growth - the kind of growth that matches the capability and ambition of our brightest businesses - will require a significant rebalancing of our economy towards exports.

Our latest Trade Confidence Index shows that optimism among exporters remains high, with 72% expecting to see an increase in turnover this year - the highest figure on record. And this is translating into jobs growth, with nearly a third of exporting firms (34%) saying that they expect to hire more staff over the next quarter.

Undoubtedly Britain's economic prospects are looking good, but they have the potential to be great. British firms are eager to export, and significantly boosting UK business overseas will be the key to sustainable high growth at home.

To achieve this, we will need to nurture the right set of conditions. Businesses need better access to the finance that will lubricate the wheels of international commerce, but is still far too scarce. Infrastructure improvements will be vital in helping businesses: connect to, and communicate with, overseas markets; safely transport their products; and secure dependable energy supplies at a fair price. The country also needs the knowledge and skills to make it happen. All businesses are built upon people, and without access to a rich talent pipeline of dynamic, young workers with a global outlook, firms will struggle to sustain future export success.

But more urgently, businesses need practical advice on the ground. SMEs thirst for local support to build the practical knowledge, contacts, partners, customers and supply chains necessary for exporting.

The Chamber of Commerce Network plays a significant role in delivering this support. Gapuma, for example, is a British exporter capitalising on growth in African consumer markets, selling chemical products to Nigeria for the production of drinks and household detergents. This is made far easier with the supply of trading documentation that it receives by being a member of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). By demystifying the bureaucracy of international trade, LCCI has enabled Gapuma to focus on sales growth, and the company is now exploring further emerging market opportunities across Africa and South America.

But our organisation can only do so much alone. The government will need to work more closely with businesses if it is to achieve its ambitious target to increase UK exports to £1 trillion per year by 2020. The Prime Minister's personal commitment to export growth is commendable, but UK spending on export support remains shamefully low - at only around £236 million. This is a tiny fraction of GDP, a rounding error at just 0.02%, and significantly below competitor nations in Europe and beyond.

Whilst UK firms remain optimistic for future growth prospects both at home and abroad, to secure lasting economic success, we will need to see a step change in support for our brave businesses in achieving their export ambitions.