Import as well as export to succeed in a post-Brexit era…

Posted: Saturday 15th April

In case you missed it, here’s our managing director’s latest column for Shropshire Business magazine..

By Nicole Gunter

We hear a lot from the Government about export – how they want to increase exports, boost exports, support exporting companies and yes, they even have a campaign called Export is GREAT!

The Government isn’t wrong, but by focusing on just export, thousands of SMEs may miss out on the opportunity to boost their own businesses. For many smaller companies, an element of import is vital if they are to compete on a global stage.

Actually, International Trade is GREAT. Companies which both import and export, or are considering it, will be the ones which flourish in a post-Brexit era.

As a freight forwarder working at a time when decisions are being made about the manner of the UK’s exit from the EU, the movement of trade and what customs will look like – we are more aware than most of the potential effects on companies trading internationally.

We have already seen many of our manufacturing clients look to new markets, and emerging markets, amid uncertainty. They are looking for new suppliers, importing more components and exporting more finished goods.

Additional trade barriers in Europe could see more UK imports sourced from non-EU suppliers, especially if lower tariffs apply.

The most recent HSBC Global Connections report once again highlighted that UK import demand would be influenced by the ‘increased specialisation permitted by the
integration of manufacturing supply chains’ with transport equipment and industrial machinery both forecast to account for close to a fifth of total import growth over the period 2021-30.

Given the new Industrial Strategy currently under consultation – it’s not hard to work out that for UK plc, our manufacturers will want the final strategy to address how two-way international trade can further boost growth.

What is reassuring amid uncertainty is that a number of businesses seem more willing to take a first dip in the international trade waters. Export isn’t all about shipping containers around the world, it could be a few pallets on a plane or a parcel sent by courier to Ireland! We’ve many clients who started small with one shipment to a single location, and now sell to multiple markets across the globe.

Also increasing in popularity is cross trade – where a product moves between two non-EU countries but is controlled by a UK company.

Our message to customers is that as Britain shouts that it is ‘open for business’, businesses should be open to international trade – both ways! In a post Brexit world, where the uncertainty of trade deals and working relationships is likely to continue some time, it will be down to the backbone of Britain’s economy, our SME business base, to drive economic growth. Acknowledging that as great as export is, so-called ‘intelligent importing’ could be the key to levelling the playing field for smaller businesses in this brave new world.

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