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Overseas Trade

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 23 March 2017

The Department for International Trade provides market access, support and advice to UK businesses both in the UK and in 109 markets overseas. Through the GREAT campaign we build the global appetite for British goods and services, and give UK companies access to millions of pounds’ worth of potential business through the digital services offered on the great.gov.uk website.

My hon. Friend the Minister leads the buy British goods campaign. Does he agree that taking companies that make British goods on trade delegations is an excellent way of ensuring that companies make the most of our opportunities as we leave the European Union?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Trade delegations give an opportunity for small businesses to be put in front of buyers, and the Department for International Trade runs about 1,000 of them every year; I have been on a number, as have my colleagues, and they are extraordinarily successful in developing opportunities.

What steps is my hon. Friend the Minister taking to help first-time entrepreneurs become first-time successful exporters?

The great.gov.uk website is a tremendous opportunity, whereby entrepreneurs, many of whom are very tech savvy, can take advantage of the opportunities that we provide through our subsidised access to global e-marketplaces. They can also access the advice we provide through the website for exactly that type of business—they are supported as well.

May I ask the Minister specifically what advice there is, and what the Government are doing, to help small businesses in that respect?

The Department for International Trade has available a network of international trade advisers throughout the English regions who can be contacted through local chambers of commerce and are specifically there to hand-hold individual companies that need help.

Is the Minister looking at the trade differences between the English regions? One of the reasons that lots of people in the English regions outside London voted to leave was that they did not feel they were getting the benefits of the European Union. What is he going to do to help those areas improve their trading links?

We certainly look at foreign direct investment into the regions through trading links. That is why we see inward investment in areas such as Sunderland, which has benefited from Nissan. The right hon. Lady’s point about trade is absolutely right. The UK needs to trade more with the rest of the world—just 11% of businesses that could conduct such trade are actually doing so. One of the prime concerns and objectives of the Department for International Trade is promoting trade to the whole of the UK to ensure that we up our offer to the rest of the world.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has certainly held meetings in India, and we are having ongoing talks to try to facilitate opportunities there. I will visit India in the next couple of weeks with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explore more opportunities with financial services.

May I associate myself and my colleagues with the Secretary of State’s remarks about yesterday’s terror attacks?

The Federation of Small Businesses reports its members’ concerns that there should not be a cliff edge when we leave the European Union. Smaller businesses want to continue with tariff-free access and to minimise non-tariff barriers. What is the Minister’s Department doing to support small businesses and allay their concerns?

The Department for International Trade absolutely shares those desires for a disruption-free exit from the European Union. We are certainly representing those interests to the Department for Exiting the European Union, which is tasked specifically with the objectives described by the hon. Gentleman.

11. The United States is the UK’s single biggest export market. What early discussions has the Minister had with his new US counterparts about trying to secure a timely new trade deal? (909458)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to identify the United States as our single biggest trading partner, with 23% of the UK’s exports going to the United States. We are waiting for confirmation of when we can start having conversations.

May I associate myself and my party with the Secretary of State’s opening remarks? We will have an opportunity to pay our respects later, but we are grateful that we are here because of the bravery of others.

The rise in Scottish exports has been one of the major success stories in the Scottish economy over the past decade. What lessons does the Minister believe the rest of the UK can learn from this, given that we have seen exports double in the past 10 years?

Like everybody else, I am delighted that exports from Scotland have done particularly well, but I stress that trying to promote exports is part of an ongoing process through the whole UK, not just one region. I celebrate the fact that Scotland has a number of tremendous exports, particularly Scottish whisky. Nearly £4 billion-worth of whisky is exported from Scotland, and the rest of the world sees a great deal of value in the brand.