Priti Patel is an elected Member of the Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public Administration Select Committee. She is also a member of the Party’s Policy Board and MP for Witham.
Promoting Britain as a brand overseas and encouraging export growth are two ways in which the Government is using soft power to spearhead our economic recovery and reaffirm our place in the world. While the last Labour Government ignored the benefits of expanding trade and neglected the ambitions of Britain’s entrepreneurs, we should be proud that Conservatives in Government are backing British business to succeed in the global race. The Prime Minister deserves praise for spearheading our efforts to double the value of exports to £1 trillion by 2020. By leading trade missions to India, China, the Middle East and elsewhere, he is letting the world know that if they want the best they should buy British.
This week the Government is running its Export Week initiative, in which UK Trade and Investment will be running seminars, trade workshops and events to inform businesses wishing to export or expand their current trading operations. Export Week will rightly highlight the important role that exports plays in creating jobs and growth in Britain. Importantly, it will demonstrate to business that efforts to boost trade and export opportunities are now happening throughout government and our diplomatic network on a daily basis.
Whereas the last Labour Government stood by and did nothing as Britain’s share of global exports declined and let our international competitors take advantage of this weakness, Conservatives are fighting hard to secure more prosperity through trade.Since May 2010, the approach taken by the Government to exports has changed radically. Record levels of financial support have been provided to British businesses, with almost £12 billion made available in the last four years. In last month’s Budget, the amount of credit available to support overseas sales was doubled to £3 billion, with firms set to benefit from lower interest rates. These measures that are targeted to help exports come on top of the cuts in corporation tax, national insurance contributions and red tape, which help all businesses based in the UK.
As a result, Britain is exporting more and strengthening trade links with growing economies. In 2013, exports to India, one of the fastest growing overseas markets, were up by 25 per cent’. Through my role as the Prime Minister’s UK-India Diaspora Champion, I have met with numerous businesses in Britain who are eager to boost trade with India, and representatives from India who are equally keen to purchase British goods and services. Export sales other countries, such as China, are also at record highs. Although we inherited from Labour a situation in which British exporters were being left behind by their international rivals – for example, Germany, France, Canada and Chile were exporting more goods to China than the UK – we are now catching up fast.
Across the world, foreign markets are opening up and this Government has championed British business overseas to help create opportunities for British firms to gain access to these profitable markets. In sectors for which this country is traditionally famous and in new industries, the case for buying British is being strongly made. To build on the success and fame of British musicians, the Music Export Growth Scheme was introduced last year to help SMEs to promote British music overseas. Equally, the Government is supporting firms involved in the life sciences, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals to secure investment and export. UK-based businesses are now gaining new footholds into foreign markets. Electric firms, design agencies, education services and software companies are all winning new business, despite tough competition. Car manufacturing too has seen a revival in the UK, following strong levels of demand from overseas for cars made in Britain.
While Conservatives in Government deserve credit for promoting trade and exports, the private sector itself is taking strong action to seek out new trading opportunities. In Essex, the chambers of commerce are leading the way by supporting new trade. Last year, the chambers helped around 1,000 local firms, including many small and medium sized enterprises, with processing their export documentations and other practical assistance. The value of those exports was close to £310 million and, alongside the seminars and networking that the chambers organise, this represents a significant boost to the UK economy and secures employment. The countries exported to included Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Peru, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the Indian and Chinese economic powerhouses.
Pioneering and innovative businesses are also seeking out new opportunities to trade in new markets. The Essex-based global logistics firm the Claridon Group recently became the first privately owned British based company to open an office in Burma to operate from. Well-established businesses such as CNH in Basildon which manufactures tractors, Tiptree-based jam-makers Wilkin and Sons, and Crittall Windows in Witham are also continuing to export.
With the development of the DP World London Gateway port, alongside existing ports at Harwich, Tilbury and nearby Felixstowe and Britain’s second largest cargo airport at Stansted, Essex-based firms are in a prime position to benefit from further global trade with these strong international connections. The work being done in Essex by businesses and the Chambers of Commerce to unleash into global markets the full potential of the County’s entrepreneurs is impressive.
Across the country, other businesses are also finding ways into new markets and winning more trade and exports. Because of the prosperity and jobs they are creating, Britain must never fall back into adopting the complacent economic approach seen under the last Labour Government. Never again should the power of British-based private enterprise be held back. As Conservatives committed to free enterprise and trade, we should celebrate the success of our exporters and support the tremendous contribution they make to our economy.