Yorkshire calling: how grassroots support is helping region’s exports flourish

29 November 2017


Few issues have thrust overseas trade into the public eye like the Brexit vote and its ramifications in the current sometimes-tetchy negotiations with Michel Barnier.

Perhaps more than ever, people now understand why international trade matters and that, whether we stay in a customs union, strike a bespoke EU trade deal or walk away from our EU partners, really matters.

It is certainly important in Yorkshire  and Humber which latest Bank of England data  identifies as  among the UK’s most successful exporting regions where exports far exceed the UK’s national performance.

Overseas trade specialist, Chamber International, a division of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, has never been busier, providing grassroots help to enable Yorkshire businesses to trade successfully worldwide with a range of expertise from advising on accessing overseas markets, innovative logistics solutions, training scores of companies, and even helping solve a Far East trade dispute for a Yorkshire businesses.

West and North Yorkshire head of representation and policy, Mark Goldstone, says: “The Bank of England’s latest data identifies Yorkshire and Humber as among the UK’s best performing exporting regions for both services and manufacturing in recent months.

‘’Clearly, while it may not be true for all of the country, exports from West and North Yorkshire are benefiting from the lower value of sterling, although this is double-edged as rising raw materials’ import costs are an obstacle, especially alongside rises in the costs of doing business from Government interventions such as pensions auto-enrolment, insurance premium tax and a business rates system which needs a total rethink.”

As a bloc, the EU is Yorkshire’s largest trading partner but the US remains the largest single destination for Yorkshire exports, accounting for around 38 per cent of trade from Leeds City Region.

Outside the EU, data from export documentation issued by Chamber International shows Yorkshire’s biggest overseas markets, ranked biggest first, to be: United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Russia, Qatar and Taiwan. Top individual export products by sales volumes are engineered products, hides, skins and leathers; food and drink, wool and textiles, chemicals, cleaning agents and toiletries and lubricants.

Chamber International supports and advises established trading business through specialists in virtually every field and a wide range of global contacts, including  British Chambers of Commerce around the world through the Government’s Overseas Business Network.

Chamber International director, Tim Bailey, says: “It has never been easier for businesses to access demand for their products in other countries, it’s about knowing where to look. The biggest barrier to exporting is ignorance and we’re on a mission to change that.

“Businesses need to look for ways to stay informed which can be just a case of opening your browser, registering for online trade alerts and knowing which websites to visit. Our website, for example,  holds 500 pages of content with lots of advice, case studies and hundreds of live trade enquiries.”

Part of the impetus for Yorkshire, which may have contributed to its current success, was the banking crash eight years ago when flat domestic markets encouraged businesses to look overseas in an initiative supported by Leeds City Region and Chamber International.

Tim Bailey adds: “All the evidence shows that small and medium-sized businesses that export achieve higher turnover growth, innovate more and create more jobs but is also brings challenges and risks.

“Growth of the internet and e-commerce has seen more small and micro businesses become exporters. International trade used to be regarded as the province of only large, long-established manufacturing companies but now a huge range of businesses across a wide range of sectors are finding their place in exporting helped by online marketplaces.

“Web-based ebay reports that 90% of its commercial sellers are exporters and can match the largest traders in the world in terms of their geographical reach.

“A challenge for micro and small businesses is the need to appear big and established. E-commerce allows this. It is not the future of trade it’s here now and many small businesses see it as a pathway to exporting.”

Among these is Leeds-based Ross-Barr, launched by self-taught knitwear designer, Ross Barr-Hoyland, who hopes to help re-vitalise Yokshire’s textile industry, after gaining a start-up grant from The Prince’s Trust and which has now been selected for a major new showcase of British brands in Beijing.

Ross Barr-Hoyland appointed Chamber International after attending an event staged jointly with Hong Kong Trade Development Council in Leeds this summer about opportunities for UK businesses being created by China’s 'new silk road'.

He says: “I’m looking forward to working with Chamber International to see how we can create sales in China and along the ‘new silk road’ as it develops. As far as I’m concerned the sky’s the limit.”


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