Inside Business: How to show off abroad

Businesses are constantly being urged to look overseas for sales and opportunities, writes Roger Trapp. But, often, the truth is that they do not know where to cast their eye. Or, even if they do, how to act on what they see.

Governments have traditionally done their bit to assist by inviting company representatives on trade missions and - via bodies such as Food From Britain - informing the world of Britain's wares.

But the Department of Trade and Industry has just announced details of a scheme to support UK organisations taking part in exhibitions and seminars abroad. Its key objectives will be assisting new exporters to become established in markets abroad; helping experienced exporters to enter new markets; and generating new exports by encouraging firms to take part in trade fairs and seminars when they would not otherwise have done so.

As Trade minister Lord Clinton-Davis said when announcing the Support for Exhibitions and Seminars Abroad Scheme: "A major priority for my department will be improving our export performance." And he made clear that the initiative was designed to help both "first-timers" and those seeking to venture further afield.

The move follows a report published last month by the Export Forum, which was set up earlier in the year to review assistance given by government to exporters.

As well as making certain streamlining proposals, the report recommended examining the feasibility of short trips to leading trade fairs. The DTI is now developing a Trade Fair Explorer package which would provide a "hand-holding visit aimed at encouraging those who have not yet exhibited overseas to think about doing so and to give them a first taste of a particular market and the opportunities it presents", added Lord Clinton-Davis.

However, as in other areas of the new government's policy, the emphasis is less on new money than on reallocation of existing resources. "Apportioning the budget more closely to the wishes of industry should mean that support will be offered for slightly fewer events in western Europe but for more events in other parts of the world," said Lord Clinton-Davis.

Further details will be published in the New Year, following the conclusion of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review. The DTI said this was because it would not be able to reach decisions on all the proposals until then and also because it wanted what the minister called "time to reflect and make sure we get it right".

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