Britain is falling far short of David Cameron’s target of achieving exports worth £1trn a year by the end of the decade, the Prime Minister will be warned today, as he prepares to give a major speech urging British firms to strive harder to sell overseas.
Mr Cameron, who is planning visits to India and China, will argue in his Mansion House address that the UK has to compete even more vigorously to break into lucrative export markets.
The warning comes as Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, begins Britain’s biggest ever trade mission to Russia. He is taking executives from 31 companies to Moscow, where they are preparing to sign a series of export deals.
The visit is part of Export Week, in which 5,000 businesses will take part.
However, the struggle they face to clinch foreign contracts is underlined in a new report by the think-tank Reform. It says the value of British sales overseas will need to soar at a rate of 9 per cent a year to hit the £1trn target set in last year’s Budget. Reform warns that export ambitions are low, particularly among small firms. In a survey it found that less than 3 per cent of firms with an annual turnover of up to £500,000 had sought advice on exporting during the past year.
Mr Cable said last night: “British small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Many are doing incredible things and selling their services and products abroad, but too many do not realise their global potential.”
Andrew Haldenby, the director of Reform, said: “The Government’s efforts to promote trade are a relatively unheralded UK success story. Ministers now have to deliver a stronger business environment and make greater efforts to open up new markets.”