UKTI and the FCO to help British companies compete globally

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This week Business Secretary Vince Cable, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green launched a new cross-government focus on trade and investment to help the British economy grow. The aim is supporting international business and to help both large and SME businesses trade overseas.

They say that the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Strategy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) seven-point Charter demonstrates the Government’s dedication to supporting international business, championing UK business overseas and attracting investors to the country.

Angus McCarey, UK Retail Director for eBay UK welcomed the announcement saying “SMEs involved in cross-border trade often have the highest growth rates and potential. The internet breaks down barriers to entry into export markets which is why entrepreneurs and SMEs doing business on eBay UK exported £446m worth of goods in 2010, up 128% since the credit crunch in 2007.”

The problem however is that the government still consider an SME to be quite a large company, with anywhere up to 250 employees. Most eBay businesses are micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees so most of the strategies to support export simply won’t benefit small businesses.

Even the way the government intends to contact small businesses probably won’t impact eBay traders – Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment spoke of the challenge of reaching out to small businesses saying they would contact them using existing networks of influential bodies including banks, lawyers and accountants. I’d have to disagree here and point out that in reality although eBay traders have bank accounts many don’t even have business bank accounts let alone talk to their bank manager. Even more small business eBay traders don’t even use accountants let alone have a lawyer.

eBay traders are adept at selling overseas and the eBay platform itself is all that’s needed to facilitate cross border trade. It will be no surprise to see eBay encourage merchants to increase overseas trade, but it’s likely to be no thanks to government help or assistance, eBay traders who choose to trade overseas are by and large doing very well without government interference.

Whilst it’s laudable that the government want to foster and grow international trade it’s time they recognised the needs of micro-businesses and set out the plans to help the 180,000 eBay registered businesses grow.

3 Responses

  1. I totally agree with your comments, we set up 3 years ago and our turnover is over £500,000 a year with about 10% of turnover being exported. We have been contacted by HSBC bank 3 times in all that time, and only by phone. It is time governments and especially banks started to help micro businesses, as they are the ones that are going to get this country out of the mess that they got us into!!

  2. All the internet brands are Global. All the search engines, shopping comparison websites and marketplaces. I seem to know more about it than the goverment. I probably know more about goverment than the goverment going by the good job they are doing.

  3. “they would contact them using existing networks of influential bodies including banks, lawyers and accountants”

    Those groups who already have amongst the highest hourly rates will be getting more from the government paid for by taxes on small business and workers. So it’s another take from the poor and give to the rich scheme.



UKTI e-Exporter Starter Clinic, Maidstone: 29/03/16


Sell overseas on marketplaces: UKTI events in Durham, Manchester and Leeds


UKTI ecommerce for International Trade, Guildford: 19/1/16


Jack Ma advises PM on how to sell to China


UKTI deal with Amazon to boost UK exports

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