Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, this week called for UK Trade and Investment, the Government agency responsible for increasing UK exports to turbo-charge the assistance small and medium sized businesses receive in helping them to export.
Speaking during a debate on the Budget Alok welcomed the fact that for the first time in two decades, the UK is exporting more to non-EU countries than to EU countries, but highlighted areas where UKTI could go further to support businesses including expanding the Government’s presence into more cities in key markets.
During the Parliamentary debate, Alok said: “Small and medium-sized businesses still tell us that there is a fear factor when they are looking to enter new markets. UKTI and the FCO have been great at targeting high-growth nations and opening new offices, but we need to turbo-charge that expansion. We need not only to target three, four or five cities in these huge economies such as India and Indonesia, but to go into the 15 or 20 top tier 1 and tier 2 cities. In those economies it is not only the national Governments who make decisions; the state governments make many of the big decisions on investment, which is why we need to turbo-charge our approach and get these offices across these countries quickly.”
Alok also called on UKTI to create sector-focused hubs in cities, within the high growth economies, where British SMEs could be based and derive a real synergy benefit from such an arrangement.
Speaking during the debate Alok said: “The Government, together with UKTI, should provide practical help by taking on office space in these key cities, basing sector experts from the UK Government and UKTI there, and working with local enterprise partnerships to get out there and allow SMEs low-cost desk and office space for three, six or 12 months. The synergies that will be created as a result of all these companies coming together in one location, with sector focus and where we can also get local advisers involved, will do a huge amount to boost our exports. We want to go from having one in five SMEs exporting to having one in four, which is the European average. That will add billions of GDP to our economy. UKTI is doing a great job with the headstart scheme, but we need to build on such initiatives.”
Following the debate Alok said: “There are huge opportunities for British businesses in some of the high-growth emerging economies and I therefore hope that the Government will look at my suggestion to create a large number of sector-focused hubs in cities across high growth regions to turbo-charge the export potential of our SMEs.”
The full speech can be read here: http://www.aloksharma.co.uk/content/budget-debate