By Steve Howell
Export finance of £1.5 billion and an extra £140m for UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) were the two key trade-focused measures announced in this afternoon’s Autumn Statement by Britain’s finance minister.
The Chancellor of Exchequer, George Osborne, told a packed and rowdy House of Commons that the British Government will leave no stone unturned in supporting industries and technologies ‘where Britain has a clear advantage’.
“With my Right Honorable Friend the Business Secretary’s support, we will extend our global lead in aerospace and support the supply chains of advance manufacturing,” he said.
“We are also taking big steps today to support British companies who export to new emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Americas.
“I am increasing the funding for UK Trade and Investment by over 25% a year, so it can help more firms, build the capacity of British chambers overseas, and maintain our country’s position as the number one destination in Europe for foreign investment.”
“And we are launching a new £1.5 billion export finance facility to support the purchase of British exports.”
The extra funding of £140 million for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is specifically to help small and medium sized business export abroad. But the Government has not yet given any details on how this will be spent.
Small companies aiming to access growing markets overseas will also be the beneficiaries of the £1.5 billion to help our smallest companies to access growing markets overseas.
A statement on the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website said: “For the first time UK Export Finance, the Government’s export credit agency, will be able to issue loans to overseas customers and buyers wanting to purchase goods from UK businesses.”
West Wales Exporters Association chairman Steve Smith welcomed the news of more funds to help exports to emerging markets and increased funding for UKTI, but he is concerned the benefits will not reach Wales.
“It would be a real boost to Wales and the West of England if the regular meetings and events hosted by UKTI were switched occasionally to Bristol or Cardiff rather than the usual London and Leeds venues,” he said.
“There are excellent trading firms across the UK, and central government should consider whether opening a UKTI office in the western part of the UK would have benefit – I believe it would.”
John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “We are pleased that the Chancellor is listening to our call for greater investment in trade and export support, which can help companies break into new markets across the globe.
“Exporting businesses will welcome the new funding, as long as it is used to help them strengthen their exporting capability and to exploit opportunities in fast-growing markets overseas.
“We also welcome the fact that the government recognises the crucial role played by Chambers of Commerce, both here in the UK and overseas, as a unique resource for exporters, and as the first port of call for traders the world over.”
Other business-related measures in the Autumn Statement included:
- an extra £120 million invested in supply chains, to encourage companies to invest here in the UK
- an additional £600 million for science, research and innovation, which takes the total investment since the 2010 spending review to an additional £1.5 billion.
- an extra £270 million to be spent on laboratories, classrooms and other facilities in our Further Education colleges.
- £1 billion confirmed for the business bank, which will address the long-term structural gap in lending to small businesses.
The measures were announced following an admission by the Chancellor that the British economy would contract overall in 2012 by 0.1% and that it will take longer than expected for the Government to eliminate the deficit.
For more details on the measures affecting business: