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 longterm 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.

Large exporters that are part of an international group or supply chain and operating in the manufacturing and transport sectors are the most likely to perceive the BRICs as the best platform for growth. Micro and small businesses are much less likely to have penetrated these fast-growing markets, or see them as a route to future growth. And medium-sized businesses – often seen as the foundation of Germany’s export success – are less optimistic than large ones about future prospects in markets such as the BRICs, Asia and the Middle East.

Exporters perceive ‘external’ barriers to market entry and to increasing sales volumes to exist across all export destinations. Regulatory differences are the most commonly cited but language and cultural barriers also feature prominently. In some markets, like Africa and the Middle East, political risk is the major concern. These influence decisions about when and where to export. Worryingly, exporters to the fast-growing BRIC markets are the most likely to encounter barriers that hold back sales. To support UK business expansion in these markets, the Government must press for greater progress on free trade agreements via the EU; and ensure publicly-funded support for exporters is targeted and not piecemeal. Closer to home, the Single Market must be deepened so UK businesses can more comprehensively and seriously treat the EU as its home turf.