Posted by

Mike Spicer, Senior Policy Adviser

02 Oct 2012

Iain Wright said that exports were vital to the British economy: "If we're going to have a recovery in the long term, based on sustainability, private sector-led, I think it's vital that it's export-led.” He outlined a number of areas where, Labour, were they in power, would build on the work of the Coalition - for example in commercial diplomacy. But he also pointed to a lack of “joined-up government” or clear policies on trade, and a lack of urgency. He added that increasing competition from other countries meant that the UK needed to see exporting "as an arms race. There needs to be a sense of urgency”.

Iain Wright also said he was optimistic about future economic growth in the UK. He added that a growing middle class and rising affluence would be able to spend their money on more goods and services, and Britain should be at the forefront to provide them. Attention should be paid to the Next Eleven emerging economies, and Britain needed to look for new markets to trade with, he said. He paid tribute to the work of the British Chambers of Commerce in encouraging business and export. 

Toby Perkins, the shadow minister for small business, agreed there was "a real need for our country to increase the amount that it exports". He added that businesses needed more support, and that there was a role for government to help small businesses access finance and assist them to step into export. "Whether you're importing or exporting, when you do it for the first time...it's frightening, and you don't quite know what to expect," he said, saying there was a great amount of uncertainty for new exporters, and that UKTI could "smooth out the passage to market".

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, discussed the BCC's wide-ranging surveys of British business. He said they had recognised the need to focus on export at a time when domestic economy was flat: “there has been a shift towards exporting to the rest of the world and away from the European Union". He added that society could not have healthcare and other social services without wealth-creating businesses, and that was a challenge Labour had to face. He agreed there had to be a sense of urgency to address these issues, but also a recognition that these were long-term commitments.

In the following question and answer session, Steven Lee from the Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, whose company had been a major exporter, said that the air passenger duty had put businesses off seeking new export markets. Iain Wright said he could guarantee that they would look at this issue but could not guarantee any kind of abolition in the future. He said he was concerned about anything that might affect Britain's competitiveness. He added that he would like to see cross-party collaboration on policies such as aviation. John welcomed this but issued a strong call to politician of all parties to agree a clear strategy for aviation now that supports exports and gives confidence to business.