The CBI frequently calls for government and business to work in partnership – as the means to drive the best outcomes for a prosperous UK. The benefits of this approach have been demonstrated as the government has developed its Export Strategy, set for publication in the coming weeks.
It helps that both Exports Minister Baroness Rona Fairhead and Director-General, Exports, John Mahon, have worked in and with companies with large scale international operations.
The way in which they have developed the strategy and consulted with business has been hugely refreshing. This is symptomatic of wider and welcome changes in the blend and depth of private and public sector experience in the senior management team at the Department for International Trade over the past 18 months.
The recent hire of Mark Slaughter from CitiGroup to spearhead the inward investment team, and the strong commercial credentials of the nine new Trade Commissioners to bang the drum for British business overseas is further evidence of this shift. And the Trade Policy Group, run by Crawford Falconer – a former Trade Negotiator for New Zealand with over 30 years’ experience - is also increasingly well equipped.
Of course, there is always more that can be done. The CBI set out some recommendations last week on what government and business should be doing together to build momentum behind our export performance.
At its heart was a call for the government to focus on what it does best: helping negotiate improved market access for companies with governments overseas; championing the capability of UK plc; incentivising the private sector to deliver support for exporting and connecting businesses to it; ensuring policies across departments support domestic competitiveness and prosperity; and stepping in with provision, particularly on financing, when the market fails.
Our conversations with CBI members over the past six months show that UK Export Finance (UKEF), our national Export credit agency, is increasingly seen as a game changer, and has undergone a turnaround under the leadership of its Chief Executive Louis Taylor. And yes, he also arrived from the private sector.
While, ultimately, its business that does business – at home and abroad - government can and is making a difference.