UK needs 'export trade revolution'
Britain's trade with the rest of the world must "no longer play second fiddle" according to a new report recommending radical changes to boost exports.
The independent review, commissioned by Labour, called for political leadership from the Prime Minister down to drive a "revolution in export culture" and shake up the "complex" and "fragmented" current system.
It demanded "a radical overhaul of the financing, support mechanisms but most importantly the attitude to exports and exporting across the country".
The commission, chaired by Graham Cole, boss of AgustaWestland UK, produced a series of recommendations after looking into "reasons why the UK's export performance continues to decline as a share of global trade".
It comes a week after official figures showed Britain's current account deficit swelled to 5.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, its highest annual percentage level since annual records began in 1948.
Yesterday, the Bank of England said this would be kept "under close review" amid fears it could risk investors turning against the UK.
The Cole Commission said it received more than 70 submissions from business and industry after being asked to look into Britain's dismal trade performance by Labour's Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna.
Mr Cole said: "Make no mistake we are in a battle for Britain's export future where the boundaries of the old world no longer exist, growth is being driven by the new economies and where there is no prize for coming second.
"Whilst there have been some notable successes the system is currently too complex and too fragmented and government and business in the UK need to give this as much priority and resource as our competitors do.
"This Commission is calling for a revolution in export culture. Trade can no longer play second fiddle, when the rest of the world is driving trade with a world class orchestra.
"For Britain to compete, support for exports has to go further, be simpler and drive faster. That means wider political leadership from the Prime Minister down."
The report calls for a beefed-up post of trade minister, with a Cabinet seat "able to knock heads together and make things happen".
It also recommends "putting support and finance under the same roof" to create a "one-stop shop" for small businesses and "driving digital as the shop window for the world".
The interim report also says Britain should "use the advantage of our unique place in the world".
"At a global and local level we understand others' cultures, from our cities, universities to the diasporas in our communities.
"We must make use of that advantage to become the hub for global trade and learning and drive exports."
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the findings.
He said: "Only a genuine, long-term and equal partnership between business and government can deliver a step change in the UK's trade performance, which has disappointed for decades.
"The Cole Commission is right to say that we must put international trade at the very heart of Britain's economic plan, and at the very heart of government."