Chambers of Commerce are recognised across the UK and around the world as leading supporters of international trade. Chambers deliver trade support and advice, as well as a range of specialist services, to businesses of all sizes in Britain’s exporting community.

Given the need to rebalance the UK economy towards exports to secure recovery and long-term prosperity, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) commissioned a major international trade business survey in Q1 2012 – to which 8,073 businesses responded. The survey clearly demonstrates that Exporting is Good for Britain.

 Since the BCC last surveyed Chamber members in 2011, the share of responding businesses actively exporting goods and services from the UK rose from just over a fifth (22%) to nearly a third (32%).

 Yet the survey also shows that a number of challenges, barriers and obstacles remain. The BCC and the Chamber Network will be working hard over the coming years to overcome these obstacles, working closely with companies and with Government, and will help to unlock the potential of Britain’s existing and future exporters.

 Domestic market conditions and the financial position of companies matter to export decisions – whether to export for the first time or to grow volumes. Declining sales, profits or market shares encourage businesses to search for new markets overseas. But seeking out and growing these markets involves upfront costs and managing additional risks: over a third of potential exporters say that resource levels and access to finance are ‘highly influential’ in deciding if, when, and where to export. Businesses that are actively considering exporting or recently engaged in international trade say they are less likely to start exporting if their cash flow position is deteriorating.

Yet current exporters say they are more likely to seek growth in overseas markets if their domestic cash flow weakens. This suggests that where companies have the experience, the organisation and the contacts, offsetting weakness in one market by growing another is a strategy of choice. But for the vast majority of potential exporters, our survey shows that cash flow considerations are a barrier to overseas trade, and to the achievement of the Government’s goal of rebalancing the economy towards exports.

To support the re-balancing of the UK economy towards exports, the government must do more to improve access to finance, particularly for SMEs that are potential exporters. But it is not enough that initiatives exist – there must be clear routes to market and an awareness among potential beneficiaries and their intermediaries that they can access them. There is also a need better target trade promotion assistance at SMEs, which would help more companies to manage some of the costs of getting on the export ladder.