I have been fortunate in the last few weeks to spend time at a number of events with companies seeking to grow their businesses via export including a Department for International Trade (DIT) event aimed at the Middle East and a roundtable discussion in Belfast hosted by OCO Global and some of our commercial partners.
In the aftermath of Brexit and Trump, global trade has been in the news more than at any time in my memory and it would be easy to assume all news is bad. I was keen to get beyond the political hyperbole and get that real feeling ‘on the street’ from those that matter most – the exporters themselves.
Happily, I was encouraged by what I heard. Yes, there are uncertainties but the general consensus within the exporting community was that, in business, there always are. Business leaders are seeing more opportunities than challenges and are thinking about how they could exploit a favourable currency position to establish a market position from which it would be much more difficult to dislodge them from come what may in the future
Of course, companies are not naive and are committed to doing their homework before committing fully. In many cases their questions are those that are sometimes difficult to answer from HQ – e.g. understanding regulation in the export market, market research to identify potential customers and the practical process to move product from A to B.
This weekend, the Sunday Times in the UK also published a list of the country’s 100 most successful SME exporters. The list was notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the breadth of sectors in which the companies operated was wide. Yes, it included ‘hot’ sectors such as FinTech and Life Sciences, but there were plenty of great firms operating within more traditional sectors, for example 1/3 were manufacturing companies seeking to export physical products. Reading the experiences of these firms it was striking that they were united by a belief in their product, a clear understanding of the opportunity in the export market and a fierce determination and commitment to stay the course and succeed.
Encouragingly, there have been some extremely positive developments in the UK and more broadly to raise awareness and support global exporters like those described above. The newly formed DIT have embarked on a major new marketing campaign to alert businesses to the export opportunity and how they (working with partners like OCO Global) can support. Of major significance, was the announcement earlier this week from World Trade Organisaton (WTO) of a ground-breaking agreement by its members to make it easier to export. The agreement outlines a series of changes to remove red tape and thus reduce the time, cost and bureaucracy that exporters currently face. It’s estimated that these changes could benefit the global economy by £70bn annually.
At OCO Global, we increasingly work with companies on these areas – directly and through Tier 1 partners like DIT, Invest Northern Ireland (INI), Santander and US states such as Missouri and Colorado. We welcome these initiatives, and the assurance they should give to companies considering export. We look forward to helping many more to realise their global ambitions.