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Help to pursue international ambitions; LIZ MAYES.

YESTERDAY kicked off UKTI's Export Week, which is held semi-annually to support the international ambitions of our high-growth businesses.

Exports continue to be a major issue for the British economy.

In the decade before the financial crisis, growth was driven by consumer and Government spending.

But thankfully the Government has begun to realise that to achieve sustainable growth we now need to unlock the potential of the two remaining drivers: business investment and trade.

The North East is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by overseas trade - and we remain the only English region with a positive balance of trade.

As the CBI explained in our report Go your own way, medium-sized businesses (MSBs) in particular have the opportunity to make great strides in expanding overseas, but will often need support to help get over the initial hurdles to expanding overseas.

We're the only English region with a positive Over the past few years, the two Government agencies with responsibility for promoting exports - UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) - have dramatically improved their services and products offered to businesses.

balance of trade However, there is much more that can be done. We continue to see a low level of awareness amongst small and medium-sized businesses for UKTI and UKEF - as the CBI highlighted in the 2013 report The only way is exports, 69% of SMEs have not heard of UKTI, and two-thirds of MSBs say the same thing about UKEF.

Government is actively working to counter these trends, by improving their outreach and marketing to this key group of businesses. Recently, UKTI announced that it will be offering tailored support to all UK MSBs - an action that the CBI strongly supports.

In the Chancellor's recent Budget announcement, UKEF interest rates were cut by half, making their products more attractive to businesses.

Support for the new direct lending scheme (DLS) was also doubled, with the hope that this would allow UKEF to offer support to a larger number of businesses.

Although we have yet to see the impact of these improvements, we are hopeful that they will pay off in the long-run.

Although Government - and the private sector - are working to improve the UK's export statistics, there is still a long way for us to go.

The CBI is working with Government to ensure that it continues to improve its support for British businesses. We also have a role to play to encourage our members to pursue their international ambitions.

Liz Mayes, acting director, CBI North East

We're the only English region with a positive balance of trade
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 8, 2014
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