The South Wales Chamber of Commerce has set out how it believes Welsh companies should be supported to drive economic growth in its manifesto published today (17 April), with one of the main focuses being on the international agenda.

In its manifesto, the Chamber outlines how Welsh exporters should be supported to expand into new markets or widen their scope in existing ones to help boost economic growth for the country.

One of the main ways the Chamber believes this can be achieved is through the creation of the International Centre of Excellence (ICE), where the Welsh Government and existing international business support agencies work together to share information and data which will benefit businesses looking to make their first inroads into the international market.

It also calls for the Welsh Government to do what it can to help bring in new routes through Cardiff airport to key trade markets in North America and the Middle East, as well as urging for more investment in Cardiff Airport in terms of infrastructure.

Other recommendations include increasing the number of trade missions to priority countries; calling for exporters to get trade credit to expand activities and ensuring that all SMEs are aware of the support that is on offer to them.

David Russ, managing director of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: “Carwyn Jones’s recent trade mission to India and David Cameron’s tour of South East Asia show just how much political weight there is behind strengthening our export links.

“The export market is of great importance to 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.

“Owing to the impact of today’s tough economic climate, Welsh businesses find themselves in a situation where they need to target markets outside Wales to survive. They need to internationalise to maximise their competitive advantage.

“International trade has always been high on our agenda – and supporting Welsh companies to identify opportunities is now more important than ever. We believe that the economic recovery in Wales can be achieved with support and direction, and the South Wales Chamber continues to play a vital part in this.”

The South Wales Chamber’s newly launched manifesto covers broad topic areas including business support; international trade and investment; infrastructure and connectivity, and skills. It sets out what it believes are the major issues facing SMEs in south Wales in 2012 and offers potential solutions.

The document calls for changes that will help make immediate improvements while also proposing initiatives that will have more of a long-term effect on economic growth. Some of the other recommendations include:

  • Calling for the development of the M4 relief road around Newport to ease the existing motorway, which is already at peak capacity
  • The creation of One Gateway Business Centres – a series of one stop shops located in key areas across south Wales to provide advice and business support to new and existing businesses
  • Supporting the Severn Barrage, providing it features an integrated road/rail link
  • Lobbying for a wide scale improvement plan of the rail system in south Wales as part of a local electrified network / metro system, and the creation of a direct rail link from the Great Western mainline to Heathrow
  • Urging the Welsh Government to aim for a more ambitious broadband target across Wales of 50mbps by 2015 instead of the existing target of 30mbps
  • Continue the progress made by the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales programme by focusing on driving forward apprenticeships in areas where Wales is aiming to have an advantage

David Russ continued: “We are launching this year’s manifesto at a time when the economy is showing signs of recovery, albeit slowly.

“Research from the British Chamber of Commerce has revealed that while growth will be minimal this year at 0.6%, Britain will avoid slipping into another recession, while our own Quarterly Economic Survey for January to March 2012 reveals that the Welsh economy is showing signs of improvement with businesses becoming more confident about the next 12 months.

“Rather than focusing on the negatives, we need to look at the positives and talk up successes, while recognising that there is certainly no room for complacency, with much work to be done.

“As a Chamber it is up to us to continue to lobby on behalf of SMEs in Wales and keep the pressure on the Welsh Government to make sure that the needs of businesses in Wales are at the top of the priority list.”