Commenting on the speech by the Prime Minister today, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Driving growth in exports is vital to the UK’s recovery, particularly at a time of weakened domestic demand. Disappointing trade figures for September show an increase in the trade deficit and a fall in the volume of exports. Unless exporting activity accelerates, it will be difficult to sustain growth in the UK.

“There are some great examples of exporting businesses in this country, and many of them are busting a gut to grow, export and look to new markets. Despite a tough environment, exporters tell us that they are still growing[1].

“However over 70 percent of firms in this country do not export[2]. Businesses often find it hard to take the critical first step into new markets, and there has to be more support to help them do so. Firms must also be encouraged to look further afield than Europe, which remains our largest trading partner, and seek out opportunities in markets such as China and India.

“The Prime Minister’s commitment to helping more small companies trade overseas is welcome, and we expect to see real measures announced in the growth strategy that will deliver this. That means prioritising trade missions, more trade finance for export deals, and a strong UK presence at major global trade fairs.”

Commenting on the SME Regional Growth Fund, John Longworth added:

“The new SME Regional Growth Fund scheme will help some companies obtain the finance they need to grow at home. But it is not a panacea, and will not cure the wider problems companies still face in accessing finance. Banks still need to improve relationships with business customers. Without clear lending processes and more sensible decision-making at a local level, many businesses will still be reluctant to ask for loans and the government’s lending targets won't be met.”