Commenting on press reports of a speech to be made today by Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Johnson, on British businesses failing to capitalise on opportunities in China, David Frost, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Alan Johnson’s remarks do not appear to be in line with the rest of Government policy.

“Businesses are fully aware of the opportunities in China and other parts of the Far East.  Yet they have seen export support reduced in recent years as the Treasury switched its focus to encouraging inward investment.  At the same time, the Government has re-focused the reduced remaining support in away from existing exporters to new to export firms who may favour markets closer than China, for example the European Union.

“Chambers of Commerce have excellent links with Far East countries and help companies everyday to access new markets, but their job is getting harder given the Government’s reduced support. All of these changes come at a time when our existing exporters are facing intense competitive pressure from abroad and our share of world exports is declining.

“One of the major strengths of the German economy is the emphasis on business support for manufacturers, which has in turn helped Germany to position itself as a successful exporter of world class goods. 

“Our firms have been under increasing pressure in recent years from competitors outside the UK. We are still seeing daily closures in manufacturing– a position we will not easily reverse unless we see a dedicated focus on business support.”