The BCC’s Quarterly Economic Survey is out todayshowing that while the economy is still growing, it slowed in Q3, with manufacturing and export balances down on the quarter
Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) International Trade Conference in London today, BCC Director General, John Longworth said:
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“A warm welcome to our 2014 International Trade Conference.
“Thank you to Lord Livingston for that great film. It is actually a tribute to our Trade Minister that he can't be here today as he is travelling the world and drumming up trade for the UK.
“So we have gathered today at a very exciting time for UK business. Our economy, right now, is growing much faster than any Eurozone economy and faster than almost all developed economies. By contrast, many Eurozone economies are contracting, and the OECD forecast growth for the UK is 3.1%.
“We heard at our Trade Forum from the economist, Andrew Sentance, who reminded us that the UK has topped the growth league table of the G7 nine times since 1980, and that GDP growth per capita has been highest in the UK during that period. So much for the productivity doom merchants. The UK is strong and vibrant.
In the East Midlands, 35% of companies are expected to recruit new staff this quarter alone.
“Overseas, membership in our network is up between 12 and 30 percent across diverse markets and the overseas teams are flat our dealing with enquiries from the UK.
“We also heard during our Trade Forum over the last two days, what great progress the Overseas Business Network Initiative has made creating practical, business to business support for UK exporters in fast growing markets around the world. But there are still many challenges ahead.
“We know we have a trade challenge – a stubborn trade deficit, and falling global market share. It is the one area of the economy in which we are not succeeding.
“Our own Quarterly Economic Survey, published today, by the BCC, tells us that UK export growth has slowed this quarter and the official figures show poor growth in exports in recent years.
“The exciting thing is that we have at our finger tips some of the solutions to increasing the UK’s export base.
“Part of this is improving awareness of the growth opportunities overseas, helping to break down the fear of exporting and providing easy access to practical support on the ground – all to help companies get started in export markets.
“And we know that when businesses do have a go at exporting, they grow, on average, 20% more than businesses that don’t export. It’s not rocket science, but it is challenging.
“Lord Livingston is also right to point out the importance of mid-sized companies.
“In real terms, these companies provide significant bang for buck in the economy in terms of both employment and economic impact.
“So, isn’t it brilliant that mid-sized companies also happen to be the backbone of the Chamber Network. We know who they are, so we are uniquely positioned to help them. And this pilot programme, the Overseas Business Network Initiative, which we are promoting today, is a fantastic opportunity to step change what we are doing on exports.
“In the UK, of course, we have never previously been able to invest properly in building a modern international business network and to help provide practical business to business support to companies on the scale required to resolve some of today’s challenges.
“The UK is of course famous for its ingenuity, entrepreneurialism and creativity. When we set our minds to something, we are world beaters, so there is no reason to think that we cannot find solutions to the current challenges. One thing is clear though – we need to work together to be successful.
“We need to bring together our collective expertise, Government and Business, Business and Government together, and focus on solving the challenges together.
“In 2012 the Prime Minister launched a new partnership of the British Chambers of Commerce, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UK Trade and Investment.
“We set out to respond and increase the range of business to business support overseas and create an international UK business network.
“Two years on, I’m pleased to report back that we are making exciting progress. We have together, so far:
- Created a wider range of practical business support in 20 high growth markets.
- Doubled the support on the ground in Colombia
- Established Fifteen new business centres around the world, offering practical space to plug in and get started when you get off the plane.
- Opened the first British Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar since sanctions were lifted.
- Created the largest foreign business network in the Philippines.
“And these are just a few examples to get a taste of what is going on.
“And here today I am delighted to say that we have over 30 representatives from our international network of British Chambers and Business Groups, some of whom you will see on panels throughout the day or whom you can meet between sessions.
“Finally, I am today also pleased to repeat a bit of news which we announced on Tuesday, that Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and former Minister for Trade and Investment, has agreed to Chair a new BCC International Advisory Council made up of the Chairman and Chief Executives of some of the UK’s most successful exporters.
“Their job will be to advise us on international trade, and both champion and help us strengthen, the role of our international and UK business network.
“I hope you will agree, this is fantastic news for everyone and another clear signal that we mean business and are doing everything we can to bring our collective resources to bear, to step change international trade support. You will hear from Lord Green a little later in the day.
“I am very excited about the year ahead.
“We are doing the right things and based on current progress, will be in a very different place to do even more to help UK business export by this time next year.”