Cable to launch plan to aid small businesses to become exporters

The Business Secretary is to reveal details of the coalition's trade and investment strategy
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The Independent Online

Vince Cable is to reveal measures to boost exports this week to drive Britain's economic recovery.

The Business Secretary will unveil details on Wednesday of the Government's Trade and Investment White Paper which will detail funding to help businesses export. Small businesses and their importance in the fight to repair the UK economy will be at the core of the paper.

Mr Cable said: "Trade and investment are absolutely fundamental to rebuilding and rebalancing our economy. Encouraging small businesses to export more is at the heart of that.

"There is real scope to improve the support offered to help SMEs move into international markets so that our companies can compete internationally for export opportunities on a level playing field."

He will work with high-street banks to launch and improve the finance and insurance products available to better support small businesses which want to move into exporting.

The Government wants to match the services offered by countries such as France, Italy and Germany, which provide far more help for their small business sector. It is also lobbying the European Commission to fast-track measures to reduce the major barriers to exporting. The Federation of Small Businesses found that only 23 per cent of its customers were exporting. Their main concerns were red tape, bureaucracy, getting paid and exchange rate issues.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) said exporting firms account for 60 per cent of Britain's productivity growth and spend disproportionately more on research and development than other firms. They are also proven to be more resilient in the long term. It also found that companies that export see a jump in productivity of 34 per cent in the first year alone.

Part of Mr Cable's plan is to launch a new online service offering access to sales leads around the world.

The Government made a series of trips to Russia, India and China last year to encourage ties with emerging markets and has appointed Lord Green, a former HSBC banker, as Trade minister to push the drive overseas.

Both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, have repeatedly criticised the fact that Britain exports more to Ireland than the vital emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China put together. In 2009, British exports recorded their biggest fall since records began in 1947.

The most recent statistics available for exports and imports from the Office of National Statistics found total exports rose by £0.9bn – a 4.1 per cent jump to £23.6bn in November 2010. But total imports rose by £1.1bn to £31.6bn, a 3.4 per cent increase making the UK's deficit on trade in goods widen by £100m to £8.7bn for the month.