The South Wales Chamber of Commerce is calling for the Welsh Government and international business support agencies to work together with the Chamber to help drive forward Welsh exports to grow the economy.

David Russ, managing director of the South Wales Chamber, wants all parties to work together with a more joined up and integrated approach to significantly improve the current support given to companies wishing to expand their offering overseas.

As such, he is calling for the establishment of the International Centre of Excellence – or ICE – to help share information and data which will benefit businesses looking to make their first inroads into the international market.

Mr Russ said: “Driving growth in exports is vital to Wales and the UK’s recovery, especially at a time of weakened domestic growth.  However, more than 70 per cent of firms in Wales do not export. They often find it difficult to take the critical first steps into new markets, and it is essential that we find ways to help support them.

“ICE is a creative solution to this problem, and one that can be put in place very quickly.  ICE would not seek to replace the current services provided by existing international support agencies.  Rather, it would encourage existing agencies to share information and data to pave the way to creating a more valuable offering to businesses.

“Furthermore, it would eliminate the need to establish a new organisation to act as a buffer between the Welsh Government and the private sector by creating a virtual framework, or hub, that does not require additional bureaucracy to make it happen.”

ICE would work by collating data and information from international partner agencies and creating a monthly management report, which would be fed into the Business Minister, Edwina Hart, providing her with an instant snap shot of all international activity in Wales.  It would give an invaluable strategic insight into where Wales’ strengths lie overseas, what can be done to best leverage these strengths to improve export activity and what areas need further attention.

David Russ continued: “Our research has revealed that businesses face four main issues when they start looking at exporting, namely a fragmentation of services offered, duplication of effort when filling out forms for various agencies, a lack of awareness of what support is actually out there and the time taken to obtain that support.

“ICE will tackle each of these issues head on and provide businesses with a much more streamlined approach to accessing the support that they need, when they need it.”

The value of the export market plays an important part in the Welsh economy.  Exports from Wales rose in value by a massive 31.4% over the 12 months to June 2011 to stand at £13.05bn. This compared to a rise of 6.6% in Scotland, 14.9% in England and 11.4% in Northern Ireland.

David Russ concluded: “Exports are on the rise in Wales – but we must do more to accelerate this increase. We need to ensure that our export market doesn’t suffer in the same way as our inward investment market has over the past five years. ICE is a coordinated and cohesive solution from the private sector to help ensure that this doesn’t happen.

“I will be looking to set up a meeting with Edwina Hart in the next week or so to discuss how we take these plans forward and work together to increase Welsh export activity quickly.”