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Trading Opportunities Abroad

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 15 December 2016

6. What steps his Department is taking to support businesses in establishing future trading opportunities abroad. (907896)

8. What steps his Department is taking to support businesses in establishing future trading opportunities abroad. (907901)

The Department is working across the UK, as well as in both current and future export markets overseas, to help British businesses. We are helping them to export their goods and services, identify new export opportunities and win those export sales. We are doing this digitally, through the website, and in person, through our network of international trade advisers across the UK and through our overseas staff in 109 countries.

Businesses in my constituency do not always have the resources to explore export markets but are keen to maximise opportunities. What is the Department going to do to help those businesses, so that they can find more opportunities abroad?

May I refer my hon. Friend, who is a champion of businesses in her constituency, to the website? Although it has been going for only one month, 174,000 users have visited it, more than 6,000 users have already made use of our selling online overseas services and nearly 1,000 businesses have created a profile on our “Find a buyer” service. This was highlighted to all hon. Members when the Department sent out our MPs’ toolkit, so that all MPs can help their constituents to find new markets and raise their eyes to the horizon.

With only 5% of businesses trading directly with the EU, surely leaving the internal market will allow us to relieve the other 95% from the shackles of over-regulation? Will the Minister say a bit about the balance his Department is going to strike between inward and outward investment?

I thank a member of the Select Committee for his very wise question. It is a new approach by this Department to look equally at overseas direct investment for businesses looking to move overseas. This is incredibly important because it provides opportunities for many businesses to create new opportunities and new markets overseas. It is worth bearing in mind that, as British businesses invest overseas, they take with them skills and expertise, which can only help those developing economies to grow, thus creating even more opportunities for British businesses in further developed markets.

9. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said yesterday that he is considering four options for the customs union: completely inside; completely outside; the Turkish model, which is partially inside but outside the single market; and the Swiss model, which is outside but with customs arrangements. Are there enough staff in the International Trade Department and the Brexit Department to assess by February the concerns of UK businesses that leaving the customs union would devastate their complex cross-border EU supply chain by exposing new paperwork hurdles and tariffs? (907902)

The Department for International Trade is currently recruiting some of the finest people known in this country to help us to develop that. I stress to the hon. Lady that this whole exercise is not just defined by one Department or by the Department for Exiting the European Union; every Department is working to help to maximise the assistance that we can give both to British businesses and to the entire economy.

Expanding UK global trade will mean that we need better connectivity within the UK. With that in mind, does the Minister agree that expanding Heathrow and adding more flights from Northern Ireland will enable more of our exporters in Northern Ireland to reach clients, particularly in new and emerging markets outside the EU?

I certainly agree that greater connectivity through airports is incredibly important for the whole country. However, I must stress that the details for such arrangements are for Ministers in the Department for Transport, so perhaps I can refer the hon. Gentleman to them.

Order. I am very conscious that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) had her question transferred to another Department, and I am sensitive to her plight. If she wishes to give the House the benefit of her thoughts, doubtless she will bob up and down during topical questions and we will all be grateful for that.