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Government 'must do better on export support', says independent commis

Electronics News
8 years ago

Government 'must do better on export support', says independent commission

A report published by the Cole Commission recognises that the Government has put in place a number of welcomed initiatives to boost the UK's export performance, but is pushing for further action. However, it notes that, if the Government is serious about exports, it needs to commit resources and, most of all, the highest possible political leadership.

The independent commission – established by erstwhile Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls – was led by Graham Cole, chairman of AgustaWestland. Its terms of reference included how to tackle the UK's continuing trade deficit and how to boost trade. Other issues included how government could better support businesses in the UK in such areas as access to finance and skills, as well as how government export schemes could be simplified and streamlined.

The report recommends that the Prime Minister immediately addresses five action areas: cabinet level leadership to drive exports; reform to the relationship between UK Export Finance (UKEF) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI); a 'one stop shop' for export support; a public procurement strategy that brings UK SMEs into the supply chain; and getting trade and exports on the education agenda.

If the Government is serious about exports, the report contends, it needs to commit resources and, most of all, the highest possible political leadership within Cabinet and across Whitehall.

Addressing the relationship between UKEF and UKTI, the Commission said it was told consistently that UKTI and UKEF need to collaborate more effectively. 'At present', the report notes, 'the two can often appear to be at cross-purposes: UKEF too focused on its own balance sheet and big deals; and the UKTI on inputs, such as selling market intelligence reports, rather than outputs such as enhancing exports long-term. Business believes their shared goal must be to put export growth at the heart of everything they do'.

In its conclusion, the report says 'an exports led recovery lies at the heart of the new Government's economic policy. [This] Commission's role from the outset has been to support that priority by examining and reporting on what business wants from the Government towards that shared goal.

It notes 'These proposals for action are critical if we are to achieve a step change in the UK's export performance. They emerge from within business and are designed to help UK companies seize the extraordinary opportunities of the global economy'.

According to Cole, it is now for the Government to respond to this Action Plan.

Pic: Graham Cole, chairman, AgustaWestland

Graham Pitcher


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