The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is today calling on Philip Hammond to use his first Autumn Statement to boost business confidence, after its figures found overseas trade hopes were beginning to slip away.
While its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which it produces alongside DHL, found exporters had benefited from the recent slump in sterling, it also discovered the balance of services firms expecting an improvement in sales had dropped sharply.
Even the manufacturing sector is not entirely upbeat, with the balance of firms in the sector expecting profitability to increase over the next year slipping to +22 per cent, down from +28 per cent when asked last quarter.
Confidence on profitability for the services sector fell drastically to +15 per cent from +33 per cent between the two quarters and to its lowest level in four years.
The report's Trade Confidence Index, which measures the level of trade documents issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 4.1 per cent from the last quarter, although it was up 5.3 per cent year-on-year.
"To fire up the animal spirits of our exporters, and boost business confidence, the chancellor should use the Autumn Statement to improve direct financial support for firms looking to access new markets without bureaucracy or delay," said Adam Marshall, BCC director general. "Enabling businesses to attend trade missions, trade fairs, commission market research or make themselves export ready would be a shot in the arm for our trade performance at a time of uncertainty."
Phil Couchman, chief executive of DHL Express UK, added:
As the EU referendum approached there was an underlying sense of uncertainty on the part of British businesses and, despite a strong Trade Confidence Index against last year, this latest report shows that that feeling still exists – even amongst the manufacturing exporters currently enjoying the UK's increased global competitiveness as a result fall in the value of the pound.
Businesses are now seeking advice and reassurance about getting their goods and services overseas and it is important that businesses and government work together as EU negotiations progress.