CBI: exports can give us a £20bn boost

Julian Harris
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POLICIES focused on boosting exports from the UK could provide a £20bn lift to the economy by 2020, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) will argue today.

The government should ensure any new legislation is exporter-friendly; help exporters get more credit; and boost the UK’s hub and regional airport capacity, the business group says in a report compiled alongside accountants Ernst & Young.

With the economy facing headwinds from elsewhere in Europe, the CBI has also revealed that seven in 10 business leaders say their level of confidence has decreased since August.

“The continued crisis in the Eurozone underlines just how important it is for the UK to diversify its export efforts to high-growth countries,” said CBI chief John Cridland.

“We need to capitalise on the booming success of the BRIC countries, and look beyond the curve to future high-growth markets such as Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey. The new middle classes in emerging economies will have needs that our niche, high-end producers are more than able to fulfil,” Cridland added.

The report is expected to receive a largely warm welcome from the government. “Trade has been a drag on growth for far too long,” minister for trade and investment Lord Green said.

“We need more companies to start selling overseas and moving out of their comfort zones into high-growth markets.” Only one in five British small and medium sized firms (SMEs) currently export, the CBI says, compared to an average of one in four across the EU as a whole.

“The share of the UK’s global exports has declined sharply from 5.3 per cent in 2000 to 4.1 per cent in 2010, while at the same time Germany’s share increased from 8.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent,” Cridland said.

The CBI wants all new business regulation to face an “export enabling test”, along with greater credit made available to companies through the government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department. In the long run, the group says better education in languages, science, technology, engineering and maths would help.