The work of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce at the top table of Government, as an accredited member of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), is unrelenting – and a privilege to be a part of.
And we’re delighted to report that our BCC colleagues have just given these activities a shot in the arm with the publication of their Trade Manifesto 2023, which calls strongly for greater export and global trade support.
Here’s the document in a nutshell – and why it’s just one more reason for Bedfordshire businesses to join our Chamber, and get their voices heard in Westminster.
What is the Trade Manifesto – and why’s it important?
The Trade Manifesto produced by BCC, sets out beliefs and objectives, supports them with research and analysis, and calls for the Government to take policy and legislative action.
It’s no academic tome – in fact, at just 20 pages, the 2023 edition is about as punchy and accessible as it gets.
It’s this that makes it such a powerful and candid instrument to both cement the business community’s opinions around issues and lobby the Government for change.
What’s the size of the export problem?
As we mention above, export and global trade are front and centre in the Manifesto, and the document calls emphatically for Government to focus on boosting services, advance manufacturing, green and digital trade if it wants to hit its £1 trillion export trade target.
It comes against the backdrop of some painful stagnation in SME export figures. In Q2 of 2023, 50% of all SME exporters saw no change in overseas sales, and 24% reported a decrease.
And this is no short-term blip: the last time more than 30% of firms saw increased exports was in 2018.
What’s the detail of the Manifesto?
As with all lobbying work done by BCC on the basis of input from its member Chambers, the Manifesto is based closely around feedback and intelligence from local businesses on the difficulties and sticking points they face.
Lack of sector-specific emphasis on export within Government, cumbersome and costly administrative and customs processes, poor support for potentially lucrative green trade, and issues with electric vehicle tariffs were all identified by member Chambers as export-killers.
In response, the Manifesto calls for, amongst other improvements:
- An Exports Council to focus on boosting the UK’s services, green, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing exports
- Raising the proportion of UK exports done digitally to 60%
- Moving to online border processes at pace
- Additional dedicated UK Export Finance and promotion for green trade.
- Agreement between the UK and EU in the coming months on electric vehicles and battery rules of origin, to avoid damaging new tariffs
It’s a targeted and precise proposal that focuses in on the issues that are stopping UK SMEs from attaining the export success we know they are capable of.
Words and voices respected by Government
But despite the Manifesto’s outspoken recommendations, it’s important to understand that, as with all effective lobbying activity, it is input the Government is both ethically and professionally obliged to seek and consider – and they welcome it.
The Manifesto’s a formidable mouthpiece for SME business in the UK, and we applaud it. But it’s the culmination of much research and lobbying activity by BCC and its member network that goes on in other forms, both in and away from the corridors of power, every day.
And this, in turn, is a reminder that by joining Bedfordshire Chamber, as one of the 53 accredited Chambers within the BCC network, you will contribute views about your business and your community that, ultimately, could be read, heard, prized, and acted upon by Ministers of high office.
So join us now – because without members like you, none of that can happen.
For more information on how to become a member, please visit www.chamber-business.com or call our friendly team on 01582 522448.