Sarah Green

On Thursday UK Trade & Investment announced its five-year strategy.

On Thursday UK Trade & Investment announced its five-year strategy.

Business within the region will welcome the new approach. The UKTI's previous strategy of focusing increasingly on inward investment to the UK, at the expense of promoting UK exporters overseas and investors, had caused deep concern amongst indigenous business.

Furthermore research published by the E&Y Item Club this weekend showed that as government spending is squeezed and cash- strapped consumers tighten their belts a strong performance from exporters will be increasingly important and therefore it is vital that we have the strategy in place to support this.

As the North-East's economy is based on predominantly public sector spending and export sales, it is critical if public spending is to reduce that we increase the opportunities for export.

Under a new chief executive, with a new plan, UKTI has a real chance to make a difference. But it requires a complete change of culture within UKTI to ensure it becomes truly focused on results. The renewed recognition that promotion of outward trade and investment is just as important as seeking inward investment, and that this work achieves a good return on taxpayers' money, is really important to business.

There must be support for businesses to move into hi-tech, high value added areas where the UK can sustainably compete using our R&D, design and marketing expertise. We need to secure market share in the longer term.

A focus on the leading emerging economies is also sensible. Currently more than a third of UK exports go to the US, Germany or France.

Britain's exports to China were worth $5.5bn last year compared with Germany's $31bn. Let's however be pragmatic, an excessive concentration solely on China and India would risk missing opportunities elsewhere.

We need to see a balanced approach that reflects the opportunities and threats globalisation presents in both developing and developed markets.

To meet the challenges of globalisation we need a strong advocate at the heart of Government championing the international trade and investment interests of UK business. The CBI wants to work with UKTI to ensure that is what this strategy delivers.

Sarah Green is regional director of CBI North East


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