By Mitchell Gadd

The Welsh Government has announced additional events to its overseas programme for 2013/14, taking the number of trade missions, trade fairs and exhibitions to more than 40.

The full 44-event programme, which includes four retrospective events in April and May, includes trade missions later this year to Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Doha, Istanbul and Shanghai, and next year to Mumbai, Moscow and Chongqing.

As well as the multi-sector trade missions, there are also sector-specific visits for events such as Bio Israel, the Paris Air Show, Rail Track Africa, New York’s Summer Fancy Food Fair, Spain’s Mobile World Congress, as well as to next year to Austin’s South by South West music festival.

“It’s the most comprehensive programme we’ve had from Wales,” said the Welsh Government senior business development manager for international trade, Huw Roberts, who was speaking at the UK Trade and Investment’s Export Week.

Mr Roberts was also keen to point out that the companies flying out as part of a delegation for a sector-specific visit are not necessarily limited to those operating within that sector.

“Take Tel-Aviv, for example – it’s a life sciences mission. Even if you’re a Welsh company not working in that sector, you can still go anyway and take advantage of the subsidies and do business independently of the sector.”

One such company that has seen the benefit of attending trade missions in the past is Cardiff-based global eCommerce and mCommerce software payments and solutions provider, myPinPad.

“Both trade missions were excellent, well organised and we made numerous business contacts that will lead to new business for the company,” said David Muxworthy, its chief executive, who has been on trade missions to San Francisco and Barcelona.

“Speaking from our experience – the missions helped to open up new markets, especially if you have done some homework before going and are well organised.

“The subsidised costs and the organisation are invaluable in helping small and new businesses open new export markets.”

The announcement of additional overseas events comes on the back of encouraging data on exports from the ONS. UK trade data for March 2013 showed the trade deficit narrowed to £3.1bn from £3.4bn in February, while the value of UK exports rose by 3.5% between February and March to their highest value since July 2012.

But the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was keen to put the figures into context. “These encouraging figures show that businesses are stepping up efforts to explore new markets outside the EU,” said its head of exports policy, Jim Bligh.

“However, monthly trade figures are only part of the picture, which reveals the underlying trend for exports growth is flat. With total exports to the fast-growing BRIC economies still only making up 7% of the UK’s total, the same as the amount we export to France, we still have a long way to go before exports are really driving economic recovery.

“The government must urgently prioritise support for growing companies with the potential to enter new markets, by making export finance schemes easier to access and introducing an incentivising tax break for new market exploration.”

The CBI’s view was echoed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), who stressed the need for further progress in redressing the trade deficit and government initiatives to support exporters.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “While it is pleasing to see an upturn in exports in March, Britain’s trade deficit remains disappointingly large. It is clear that we are not making enough progress in rebalancing the economy towards net exports. The figures also highlight the need to make further inroads into faster-growing regions across the rest of the world, while the eurozone, our biggest trading partner, continues to struggle.

“More action is needed to utilise the untapped potential of many British exporters, particularly in the services sector, so that businesses can drive a sustainable recovery. The government must implement measures it has previously announced to support firms looking to break into new markets.”

For the full programme of overseas events, visit the Wales World Wide events calendar.

Photo by: Eugene Berman