New and existing UK exporters in most industry sectors find exhibiting at overseas exhibitions one of the prime ways to start or improve their exports.
The UK Government has continually said that manufacturing and exporting will help lead us out of the current economic downturn.
So at a time when it may seem to make more sense to help UK exporters (and reduce the national debt), the UK's trade and investment body, UKTI, part of BIS, was reducing its budget for International Exhibition Support Schemes (TAP). Funding for the widely aclaimed (by industry) scheme had falen from £20 million (across ALL industry sectors in the UK) in 2004/05 to around £6 million in 2011.
In contrast our EU competitors plough more than ever in to supporting their exporters at overseas exhibitions. Germany, for example had budgeted around 46 million Euros for 2012/13.
The Sponsors Alliance has lobbied government to reverse this so it was very encouraging to see that for the finacial years starting April 2013 and 2014, the treasury announced an increased the budget to UKTI. This has lead to an increase in support to companies, via the TAP to approximately £16m.
There has also been a change in government with regard to working with Trade Associations. During the last administration this relationship had been eroded to the point of almost disappearing. Threfore it was pleasing to see the recent efforts to improve the working relationship between Accredited Trade Associations and UKTI to benefit UK exporters.
The ripping away of previously agreed support (mid year in Oct/Nov 2014, showing a total disregard for agreements drawn up with exporters) has severely damaged UKTI relationship. Since then trust in UKTI has been lost. This has been compounded by numerous changes to senior management and ministers. If the UK is to improve its exports we need a properly funded and stable export plan.