CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, spoke at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool about where the UK should be focussing to improve its export performance. Though a long-term strategy is always necessary, the UK’s imminent departure from the EU brings this into sharper focus.
In her speech, Carolyn championed the multi-faceted benefits exports have for the whole economy, with a positive impact on national and regional economic growth. She also highlighted the benefits right down to firm level, as firms that export become more profitable, innovative and productive. Although there are great examples of British success in selling overseas, the UK as a whole has a relatively poor export performance and has an opportunity to address that.
Carolyn also spoke about how the CBI sees exports as starting at home, with a deep commitment to the UK competitiveness agenda. She went on to explain the factors that support a firm to export being wide-ranging, including infrastructure, a competitive tax and regulatory environment and delivering the Industrial Strategy. Crucially, the trade agenda must be inextricably linked with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Meanwhile, people must be at the heart of trade policy with a commitment to developing the right domestic skills base along with a migration system that works for business.
Importantly, the UK must exploit ‘brand Britain’. The flag and the reputation for quality and innovative goods and services is well recognised overseas and there is more that can be done to build on that. It is clear that business must lead the government’s upcoming Export Strategy as it is implemented and evolves. With close links at all levels of the Department for Trade, the CBI is working closely to influence the content of the strategy and stands ready to help in its delivery. Just this week, the CBI launched a new policy making board on trade and investment.
The board will work with the government as the UK seeks to strengthen trading relationships across the globe, at the first meeting on Monday 18 June, the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, and the Minister for Trade and Export Promotion, Baroness Fairhead, were in attendance.