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World Trade

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

UK trade increased by 55% in real terms between 1998 and 2008. None the less, the relative share of world trade declined from 5.7% to 3.9%. Our recent trade and investment White Paper sets out how we will assist exporters, focusing UKTI and new trade finance products on small and medium-sized enterprises.

A businessman in my constituency has traded successfully in north Africa for many years, but now does not know when his invoices will be paid, which affects his cash flow and business viability. Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing some form of payment guarantee scheme that will give SMEs the confidence to increase their share of world trade in the knowledge that they will be paid for it?

I am aware of the firm that my hon. Friend describes and of its difficulties in Libya. If companies are operating in difficult markets, such as Libya, they are advised to take out trade insurance. Where the market cannot provide that, the Export Credits Guarantee Department will underwrite it. We are expanding the range of ECGD products and the Treasury has authorised payments to companies in Libya for which insurance is due.

Over the next four years, UKTI is set to have its budget cut by some 17%. The schemes most commended by the CBI are passport to export and gateway to global growth. Will the Minister give an assurance that among the budget cuts those services will be protected?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that UKTI is capable of and committed to providing an increased range of activities and a better service even within its budget.

More than 50% of dairy farms in the UK closed under the Labour Government yet demand for dairy products across the world is rocketing. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out what proposals we have to launch an ambitious plan to export dairy products across the world?

Many of the problems of the dairy industry relate to the system of EU common agricultural policy financing, but I will look at the specific issue described by my hon. Friend and see what we can do to promote it.