UK firms failing to seize new export opportunities - BCC chief
The UK has too few companies exporting goods and is slow to exploit new markets, according to a business leader.
John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said problems with skills, infrastructure and access to finance were hitting export growth.
He told the BCC's International Trade Conference in London that a number of support schemes ha been launched aimed at boosting exports, but few, if any, had the desired effect.
He spoke as a new study showed that e xports have fallen to their lowest level for six years.
A survey of 1,250 firms by the BCC and delivery firm DHL found that just over half said overseas orders have remained constant in recent months, while 50% said sales have stayed the same.
Both measures have fallen to their lowest level since 2009.
Mr Longworth told the conference that the UK was not living up to a challenge on exports set by the Government three years ago.
The UK has had a trade deficit since 1998 and a current account deficit since 1984, he said, adding: "Even though the value of UK exports to non-EU countries has increased by 25% over the past five years - compared to just 6% for exports to the EU - we have not moved quickly enough to seize opportunities in the new markets.
"By British Chambers calculations, we're 14 years behind meeting the target of £1 trillion in annual exports, despite standout performances by so many individual companies.
"Government must fix the fundamentals here at home, use its own global network to spot the next wave of opportunities, and make sure that British trade is not saddled with unnecessary costs and barriers, whether in the UK or markets overseas.
"Businesses must put global opportunities higher on their own priority lists, and build a culture where risks are taken not just here at home but in markets around the world hungry for British products."