There are many reasons why we have reached this perilous position but arguably the three biggest causes are the disease of short-termism of many UK management, especially in their attitude to exports; insufficient government support, and the lack of the required levels of financial support for export activity. None of these causes are apparent in most of our European competitors.
We need urgently to address these three aspects with reform by creating a new body focused on promoting export activity. This body would include representatives of senior management across industry, the CBI, Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors.
Specifically, this set-up would involve senior export directors in each of the most important trade sectors, senior civil servants from each government department involved in exporting, representatives from organisations who train exporters, those financial institutions supporting exports, and finally, TUC input on behalf of employees in the relevant companies.
The remit of this new body would include the following:
- A detailed plan on how to boost and sustain Britain’s exports in overseas markets, including the promotion of exports from the regions and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,
- How tax incentives for companies and the role and activities of export insurance can play an effective role in boosting exports.
- Looking at how export activity can boost shareholder returns, and how to identify and encourage small businesses with a viable exportable product or service, to enter new overseas markets. Consideration of new company and tax regulations that actively encourage growth of export activity, while penalising short term speculation in the quoted shares of exporters.
- Measures to include an enhanced role for trained personnel in the commercial departments of overseas embassies and consulates to boost UK Exports.
- Involving trade union representatives in gathering evidence from European works councils on profit-sharing incentives that boost productivity and profits for the employees arising from growing exports.
There is also a strong argument for the current UK Department of Business, Innovation and Science (BIS) to have a new special unit to co-ordinate all export activity throughout government, including the overseas activities in Embassies and Consulates and overall trade promotion.
Furthermore, the House of Commons should create a Select Committee of MP’s to monitor and examine all export activity both within the Government itself, and with the necessary Parliamentary powers to question those engaged in trade activities in the private sector. This would contribute significantly to raising the contribution of exports to national income, and so enable the urgent rebalancing of the economy from consumption to production.
Bryn Hollywell worked at the Export Credit Guarantee Department and in the private sector with a Dutch exporter