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International Trade: A View From the Chamber

“More government and business collaboration will be key to maximising the UK’s export strengths.”

Elena Enciso, Head of International Trade at Liverpool Chamber talks all things international.

What are the biggest challenges facing our local exporters?

All businesses continue to face a complex set of issues including higher energy costs, high interest rates, staff recruitment and changing customer demands. For those exporting there are additional challenges and the feedback we got from members, primarily SMEs, in a recent trade survey was very much focussed around customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory barriers, transportation costs and disruptions, exchange rate volatility and political, social, economic or environmental uncertainty. Worryingly the survey also highlighted general business unpreparedness for future changes in legislation.

It is important to remember however that no two businesses are alike and despite the barriers, some businesses are thriving, exploiting opportunities in those sectors where we know the UK has specific strengths, for example, services, renewable energy, green finance, engineering, professional services and cutting edge manufacturing.

How can Liverpool Chamber support businesses currently exporting as well as encouraging those who have yet to take their first steps?

Chambers are often the first point of contact for companies who need to understand changes in trade procedures, when new measures are going to be implemented and what they need to do to prepare.

Liverpool Chamber can offer general and bespoke training sessions to help businesses navigate the changes. Some of the new procedures coming up for example, include:

  • The new operating border model. Initially planned to come into effect on 31 October 2022 but now being implemented in stages, it will affect imports of products of animal origin with more checks and documentation being required. Companies in these sectors can prepare by liaising with their logistics companies as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • We are also seeing the implementation of the Single Trade Window in 2024. This is a digital platform aimed at simplifying and integrating government systems, including HMRC, DEFRA, and the Home Office which should save time as data for import, export and transit movements will only need to be included in one single point of entry. Available for public use in 2024, customers will still be able to meet their customs obligations using existing processes and systems whilst the Single Trade Window is being developed.

Wherever possible, we facilitate briefing meetings or programmes for overseas inward delegations. Most recently we have hosted the Rise Institute from Romania and were able to showcase AI, IT and advanced engineering capabilities in the Liverpool city region. We provided introductions to local business that we hope will result in future collaborations.

We also work with other Chambers in the network, in the UK and overseas, to deliver high quality events of international relevance. The most prominent of these took place in April when we held our United in Business: Liverpool-Ukraine Business Summit in partnership with London Chamber.

Tell us about International Trade Week – what were the highlights for you?

International Trade Week, which took place this year on 6 to 10 November, featured a series of events and activities to raise awareness of the benefits of exporting.

We were delighted to work alongside the Department for Business and Trade to promote the opportunities for businesses looking to export services overseas. We had a really productive day at Aintree Racecourse where Chamber colleagues met professional and financial services providers considering to start or to improve their international presence.

A personal highlight for me was attending a Parliamentary Breakfast Reception at the House of Lords where we heard the Minister of State for International Trade, Nigel Huddleston and Shadow Minister, Afzal Khan explain how their respective parties are planning to boost exports.

Can you share any predictions for 2024?

We do seem to have turned a corner as freight costs are more stable, the appetite for travel has returned and the recovery in manufacturing industries indicates that trade growth should pick up in 2024. Whilst there are external geopolitical factors that nobody can predict, I remain optimistic despite the ongoing challenges.

More government and business collaboration will be key however to maximising the UK’s export strengths across a range of sectors, working in partnership with organisations like the Chamber. The government needs to ensure that support for UK exporters is available where it is needed most in 2024. I would encourage any members currently exporting or considering it for the first time to get in touch