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Is the Government's export target "pie in the sky"?

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee has launched an inquiry into UK exports and is assessing the role of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

It will examine how the UK can possibly hit the Government's target of £1 trillion exports and 100,000 more companies exporting by 2020.

Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Committee, said: 

"Few expect this to be achieved. The secretary of state himself appears to believe the target is pie in the sky and unachievable."
He added: "The persistent trade deficit is a concerning weakness in our economy. Britain has great businesses which don't currently export. In our inquiry, we want to bring forward recommendations which help Government get the support right for British business and work towards this highly ambitious export target."

The role of the UKTI will also be scrutinised, Wright said. 

"The Government's lack of belief in their own export goal appears to be borne out by the plight of the UKTI … which is facing the prospect of a significantly 'downgraded' role. As a committee, we will want to explore whether UKTI is indeed fit for purpose and whether it is proactive in helping British businesses identify and navigate foreign markets."

Commenting on the launch of the enquiry, John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: 

"UKTI's personalised support is improving, but we want to see intensified efforts to help small firms overcome barriers to export, such as streamlined paperwork and better guidance and information about new markets. Schemes that work, such as Open to Export, must be protected."

Also this week, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), told the BCC International Trade Conference that the UK is 14 years behind on reaching the Government's £1 trillion target. He said: 

"We have to be honest with ourselves - and acknowledge that, as a country, we are not living up to the national export challenge set by the Prime Minister back in 2012."

Written submissions to the Select Committee can be sent online via the inquiry webpage. The closing date is 11 December 2015.

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