In conversation with… Tim Bailey, International Trade Director, Chamber International

16 January 2019


Chamber International is enjoying an upsurge in enquiries about export opportunities as the UK’s entrepreneur community prepares for a post-Brexit trading environment, as Tim Bailey tells BQ.

Supporting businesses of all sizes across the UK, Chamber International delivers services on behalf of Chambers of Commerce, covering export advice and mentoring, document checking, export office services, relationship management and training. 

International trade director, Tim Bailey (pictured below) explains: “Chambers of Commerce went global long before the term globalisation was invented. They exist to support businesses, to help them grow, create jobs and generate wealth for the local economy. We operate in the true spirit of this tradition but specialise in helping importers and exporters.

   International Trade Director, Chamber International

“We help businesses with all the practical stuff; we see ourselves as enablers, facilitating trade. Our specialist advisors are highly experienced individuals who’ve held senior positions within industry. They’re responding to hundreds of enquiries every week from businesses all around the UK on subjects ranging from developing export plans, country requirements, reviewing export orders, methods of payment, customs, tariffs and overseas standards compliance.

“We also work closely with partner chambers in 30 countries holding regular Skype meetings to review ongoing projects or discuss one-off interventions when it’s something that needs input from somebody on the ground.”

Training has been a growth area for the business this year, which Tim says is being driven by companies preparing for Brexit. He explains: “We train over 500 people a year and are experiencing high growth in demand for bespoke in-house training particularly. Companies are upskilling their teams around compliance and new markets they’ve not dealt with before. 

“These are usually companies where they have a clear idea of how they want to progress and have created an export strategy. Training is often a key part of that, aligned to the KPIs of the business and the strategy. It often involves a degree of consultancy work - scoping phone calls and meetings on-site to understand the needs of the business before the training proposal is submitted.”

Tailored training works well for companies who already have experience of importing and exporting. Tim says that running public workshops is also an important part of what they do: “It sits alongside and enhances the work that the advisors do. The workshops have a 98% satisfaction rating and are on key subjects such as how to get paid when trading internationally, export documentation and import procedures, etc. Often an enquiry will lead to training - particularly when the company has never exported before and it really opens their eyes. We’re keen to promote exporting to new companies.”

Alongside the increase in training, Chamber International has also seen an increase in the number of enquiries around rules of origin and accessing free trade - another consequence of companies preparing for Brexit.

“SMEs struggle with trade rules that are difficult to understand”, says Tim. “It’s a technical subject and although the World Trade Organisation have spent a decade trying to create multilateral rules of origin they’re no nearer now than when they started. Most countries apply different rules for different purposes, which makes it complicated particularly for a company manufacturing for a global market.

“To help with this our trade procedures team have recently undertaken advanced training at the World Customs Organisation in Brussels to be able to stay ahead of developments in this area, which is set to become even more crucial as we leave the EU.”

Looking ahead to the next few years, the focus for Chamber International is on drawing more businesses into exporting. Tim sees the website as being a useful tool to help with this, as he explains: “It’s the only stand-alone dedicated international trade website in the 53 UK Chamber Network. It holds 500 pages of country profiles, advice sheets, trade opportunities and case studies highlighting export successes. We’ll be adding more content on how to start exporting including a series of how to… videos. 

“Work will also continue towards expanding our network of overseas partner chambers and business groups over the next few years. These relationships take time to build, but having trusted colleagues in key markets that you can rely on to provide quality services at a fair price has proved to be game-changing for some of our clients.”

In terms of challenges that the business faces, Tim says that his career spans 40 years and he’s never known a time when international trade has been talked about so much. “Brexit has got more businesses thinking about how they can access demand overseas”, he explains. “International trade has moved from the business pages to front page news and from this, we’re seeing a record number of new enquiries. We’ll be increasing the number of people on our client services team to meet this demand.”

Across export, Tim expects to see technology make the biggest impact on all sectors and move things forward much faster. He says: “Through e-commerce the commercial possibilities for small businesses will be endless. Large fast parcel carriers like Fedex, UPS and DHL have lobbied for better global trade facilitation such as simplified procedures for lower shipment values to bring down barriers for SME’s.

“The WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement now ratified by more than 80 countries is a major step in this direction. It will cut the cost of cross border trade by moving away from paper schedules towards digitalisation. It will make it easier for small firms to export.

“Our promotional line is that we ‘simplify the difficult stuff’, the easier we make it for businesses to trade the more accessible exporting becomes. This is what we should all be working towards.


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