Is the idea of Britain becoming an exporting superpower codswallop or reality?

International trade secretary Liam Fox has pledged to transform the UK into a “21st century exporting superpower.” But is this a delusion or tangible reality? Leading trade expert Siddharth Shankar assesses the situation

Is the idea of Britain becoming an exporting superpower codswallop or reality?

If every aspect of the government’s Exporting Strategy is calculated and executed properly, Liam Fox’s vision, in which he believes “the UK has the potential to be a 21st century exporting superpower”, could become reality. The international trade secretary is at the very least looking in the right direction. 

While everyone else worries about the UK’s future political structure and international relationships – especially between the UK and the EU – Fox’s plan paves a path to success for UK business as he hopes to achieve a 5% overseas shipping increase.

Exporting to countries outside the EU is the most practical and profitable option for UK businesses as Brexit approaches. The buying power of pound sterling may have dipped but this means British products are more competitive than ever. As an international business partner to the UK, the EU has been become less important each year since as far back as 2008. What’s more, the 508 million population of the EU pales in comparison to the population of trading partners outside the EU offering exciting new possibilities for UK exports such as India, China or the ASEAN region’s 635.9 million population.

The market for UK goods in countries outside the EU is big and production-wise, the government estimates over 400,000 UK brands and small businesses have the potential to export decent products carrying the value and heritage of Great Britain. All these suppliers lack are the required resources to penetrate international markets, especially markets outside the US and the EU.

In order to make Fox’s vision a reality, the government must work in a much more creative and supportive way to help local SMEs – rather than focusing on global brands. They must hold hands with small businesses to help their products reach the other side of the world safely and punctually, release more funds to SMEs and focus on facilitating better relationships between businesses and overseas markets.

The government should also vet collaborating parties in international business to help SMEs lower the risk of exporting and improve their grasp of the overseas market to avoid cultural, legal and economic misunderstandings and potential traps.

Simply put, Fox’s plan for the UK to become a 21st century exporting superpower isn’t codswallop. However, if we want to make it a reality, great effort is required and creative vision is needed to see the bigger picture of the world’s markets’ potential and challenges. 


Siddharth Shankar
Siddharth Shankar

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