The export strategy sets out how the Government will encourage, inform, connect and finance UK businesses so that they can take advantage of the international demand for British goods and services. In February we launched the new export champion community, a network of the UK’s leading exporters which will encourage their fellow firms to start exporting and will offer practical advice.
I am thinking very much of the workers at Ford this morning, because my first job was as a foreman at Ford in Bridgend. I hope that a way through can be found.
When it comes to informing and connecting, the Department needs people on the ground, but its budget in Africa, where I am one of the trade envoys, is very small. It has excellent people, but not nearly enough of them. What is the Minister doing to persuade the Treasury to invest more in “feet on the ground” for our trade missions in Africa and across the world?
One of this Administration’s successes is the establishment of the Department for International Trade. For the first time, we have a dedicated, focused international economic Department that seeks to build our global prosperity. Africa, which is expected to double its GDP between 2015 and 2030 and whose population will nearly double in the not too distant future, is an area in which we need to up our engagement. That is why we are organising an African uplift this year, and we will continue to do more.
Implementing the export strategy also requires us to implement the cyber-security export strategy, which relies heavily on UK Export Finance for direct lending, export refinancing and so on. If cyber-security exports are a genuine strategic priority, what proportion of UK export financing will be committed to its support?
UK Export Finance responds to the market. It is there to ensure that no viable British export fails for lack of finance. Therefore, predicting, let alone fixing, the percentage that will be put into any particular sector—even if it is a strategic priority for the Government —would, I think, be a mistake.