The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Carry On Trading

By Chris Fletcher - Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

One of the Government’s favourite lines is about an “export-led recovery”, however get talking to any business and there seems to be a huge gap before this becomes a reality.

One of the main issues raised time and again by members is the scarcity of credit guarantees for exporters and the knock-on effect this has with accessing finance. Over the last two years, there has been a retreat by credit insurers from the export market, which has made it difficult for businesses to access finance and do the deal. The appetite to offer insurance seems undiminished overseas so many UK firms now access foreign-based cover to continue trading. Indeed many schemes are backed by overseas governments to levels we could only dream about in the UK.

We have made various representations to Government on this issue, looking for the possibility of greater state intervention to support these schemes by covering the risk – not to give handouts – but to support and step in when required. Our International Trade Council has made this issue a top priority to preserve what we have already and encourage new exporters.

It was with some optimism that the recent Trade White Paper heralded the launch of five new schemes from the Government and delivered through the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) and BIS. On first appearances they seemed to fit the bill and would offer broader access and coverage to encourage exports, but would they be the real deal?

To test this out, the Chamber took a group of exporters down to ECGD and BIS on 16th March to meet with the people that put the schemes together, as well as meet with one of the three main credit insurance companies, Euler Hermes.

It was quite a busy day and involved a bit of criss-crossing the capital, but the meetings with Patrick Crawford, the CEO of ECGD, and David Frost, the EU Trade Director at BIS, with their teams did prove fruitful on a number of levels. They agreed that whilst the schemes were a start, they may need further enhancements and changes before they really do what they were set up to do. This could be seen as worrying on one hand, but actually is a refreshing approach and one that leaves the way open for further input. Direct business guidance on what the schemes eventually look like and deliver will be invaluable and something that we can help co-ordinate. Both teams were keen on visiting Manchester in the not too distant future and we’ll be setting some dates up for this.

One of the real benefits though, and the one that gives me satisfaction time and time again, is getting business owners in front of key decision-makers to get their views and issues across. As a Chamber member you can get access to the politicians and decision-makers as part of the service we offer, not just on this issue, but across the whole range of policy areas identified in our “Action For Business” document.

There will be more opportunities in the future so keep an eye on what’s happening.
In the meantime, the focus stays on this issue and the relentless drive to keep Britain trading.

1 comment:

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