Is the government helping exports?

Is the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), is a net hindrance or help to exporters?  UKTI can surely point to successes but could its expenditure of over £400M p.a. (up 70% since this government took office) be better spent? The 2013 research into UKTI commissioned by Daniel Kawczynski MP is important, valuable and deserves more attention. It provides insights into the strengths and weaknesses of UKTI as it now is. UKTI can point to successes but overall the emerging picture is one of excessive bureaucracy and ineffective communications. The reports recommendations are sensible but they are not radical enough.

UKTI should become a separate stand-alone agency, integrated with Chambers of Commerce, and its HQ should be cut from 500 to 50.

The UK [potential] exporters and receivers of inward investment should be put in charge.  They should be asked what help, and especially contacts, they want, as distinct from being told how to do their business.  These should be communicated directly to overseas posts.

Overseas UKTI staff are bogged down in paperwork. OMIS and other statistical reports and surveys should be scrapped. Successful exporting and inward investment are a matter of personal contacts, not sitting at computers especially as, in this www age, [potential] exporters have access to the same on-line data.

Measuring UKTI performance by the number of contacts allegedly made, and/or number of exporters, should also be scrapped. The quality of the contacts, i.e. the additional exports arising, matters; the quantity of contacts, which may be no more than unreturned phone calls, does not.  The ineffectiveness of communications within UKTI and with [potential] exporters and overseas FCO posts is probably the biggest complaint by the private sector and within the lowere echelons of UKTI.  The only metric that matters is how much trade has been added, whether directly or indirectly.

UKTI is not delivering the exports we need.  The UK’s share of exports is declining whilst the cost of UKTI soars. It requires drastic overhaul.  The Kawczynski report is important and valuable. It provides insights into the strengths and weaknesses of UKTI as it now is and suggests useful improvements but more drastic change is needed.