Mark Garnier, the UK’s international trade minister, provides an overview of the Exporting is GREAT initiative, supported by the UK government’s newly-launched, a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors.


What are the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) priorities?

The DIT will pave the way for the UK to become a beacon for open trade. There are three areas we will focus on. We will promote and support UK businesses overseas, helping to open up new markets and ensure that no viable export fails due to lack of finance or insurance. Secondly, we will maximise returns through supporting foreign direct investment and outward direct investment. And finally, we will deliver the best international trading framework for the UK to maximise global trade and investment opportunities.

Quite simply, trade draws wealth from all corners of the world into all corners of the UK: creating jobs, wealth and opportunity. Exports are responsible directly or indirectly for 6.4 million UK jobs and a quarter of our GDP – that amounts to around £509bn. Trade transforms livelihoods and communities for the better. Building an economy, through trade, that works for all is at the heart of this department’s mission.


What is DIT doing to help more businesses export?

There is so much untapped export potential in the UK economy. With over 2.5 million registered businesses in the UK, only 11% export anything beyond our borders. We want to change this, and fast. Our ambition is to create 100,000 additional exporters by 2020 and to reach that, we asked businesses what the barriers to exporting were and what government could do to help.

We found that some businesses want to export, but feel that they don’t have the time or that it’s too difficult. So, at the end of 2016, government launched a new service to make it easier than ever before to sell products overseas. will be a single destination for trade and investment, bringing together UK businesses, international buyers, international investors and online marketplaces. A good place to start is for a company to register on GREAT’s ‘find a buyer’ service. After that, the government will work to actively match their products and services to worldwide demand. is a one-stop shop for information and support: businesses can download export guides, access market information and benefit from a range of commercial advice and financial support.

Another barrier is the belief amongst some business owners that there is no overseas market for their products or services. Let me be clear, this is a misperception. We believe that there are hundreds of thousands of businesses in the UK who have a product or service to export, but mistakenly believe there’s no global appetite for it. This is unfortunate and we must look to address this. On official overseas visits, I have seen first-hand the high esteem with which British products are held; brand Britain really is synonymous with quality, innovation and heritage. To show UK companies the growing global demand for their products, we launched the Exporting is GREAT marketing campaign in 2015 to inspire companies to export and show the demand that exists for UK goods and services. So far, the Exporting is GREAT campaign has attracted over 45,000 applications for export deals, and 29,000 downloads of the Exporting is GREAT export guide., which is now the home of Exporting is GREAT, has thousands of live export deals right now for which UK companies can apply. I am delighted our message is getting through.

The final example I will give is around lack of finance and insurance, which is a genuine barrier that disproportionately hinders small and medium-sized companies. UK Export Finance (UKEF), the government’s export credit arm, is here to ensure that no viable export fails due to lack of finance or insurance. This government’s commitment to boosting exports was underlined at the recent Autumn Statement where UKEF’s risk appetite and market exposure limits were doubled: meaning they can help even more companies with more deals in more markets. These are all practical steps we are taking to ensure that we provide the tools and set the conditions for UK businesses to thrive overseas.


What is the role of partners to get more businesses to export?

Government is under no illusion as to the scale of the task facing us to boost our national export performance. We also know that by acting alone our effectiveness is limited. There are stakeholders across business, industry and academia that can provide the type of support to exporters which government simply cannot. That is why our Exporting is GREAT campaign has over 60 commercial partners – ranging from banking and logistics, to telecoms and aviation – standing ready to help exporters on every step of their journey.

The support of partners such as NatWest is crucial to ensure we reach our target of 100,000 additional exporters by 2020. Their commitment to support 15,000 new businesses to export by 2020 allows us to make a huge step in the right direction and I am delighted that they are partnering up with UKEF to help companies secure £2.5bn of overseas contracts over the same timeframe.

We want to create a national movement of exporting – where selling overseas is not just a nice to have but one of the first points on a company’s business plan. I want UK businesses to have the vision, support and confidence to sell their products to Bangkok just as easily as they can sell to customers in Birmingham and Bridgnorth. Partners such as NatWest are central to creating and sustaining this national movement as well as ensuring companies have the tools that allow them to look ever further afield.


How do businesses know if they are export ready?

We know that exporting can be a leap into the unknown for some companies. However, research shows that businesses that export tend to be more profitable, more innovative and more resilient. Businesses now have access to a level of support that is simply unprecedented. We are making it easier and simpler for businesses to export; we are reducing risk by guaranteeing finance; and we are showing companies the growing global appetite for their products. I hope that this wealth of information and support means that more companies see themselves as export ready.

With the growth of e-commerce there is now no longer such a thing as a ‘typical’ exporter. Exporting is no longer the sole preserve of big multinationals. Now it is possible to sell to China, Latin America and Europe from your bedroom, garage or local coffee shop. In fact, two in five of the UK’s smallest exporters – that’s companies with fewer than 10 employees – are already doing business in at least one high-growth market. DIT’s E-exporting programme has helped over 3,000 companies since 2014 and has negotiated preferential onboarding rates for some of the world’s biggest online marketplaces exclusively for UK companies. Find out more about Selling Online Overseas on

For those companies still unsure, I would urge them to join a DIT-led overseas trade mission to see first-hand the opportunity of a potential new market, to understand local business practices, and to build contacts with local distributors. Closer to home we have regional export events (many of them free to attend) across the UK, which are market or sector-specific, which I would urge companies to attend. And finally I would encourage companies to speak to our talented International Trade Advisors; these are seasoned exporters who will be able to share their expertise, experience and insight.

If you’re reading this and are now curious about selling overseas, chances are you are export ready, and you just don’t know it yet. And with the huge levels of support available and a world of opportunity out there, there’s never been a better time to find out.


Alison Rose, NatWest CEO of commercial and private banking

“We are proud to support Exporting is GREAT. Working in partnership with the Department for International Trade, we will promote the benefits of exporting to our SME, corporate and entrepreneur customers, and help them grow through selling to new markets around the world. We want to encourage our customers, and all UK
businesses, to take advantage of this exciting new digital service by registering their business, helping link UK companies with global buyers and partners.”


Alan Ainsbury, NatWest head of trade & international origination UK

“The guidance and support our team of international trade advisors provides our customers is broader than purely how to source finance for their exporting opportunity. We connect our customers with our strategic partners who have the additional sector and local market expertise to boost their businesses through sustainable growth in trading internationally.

“We are committed to supporting 15,000 UK businesses export overseas and enter into new markets by 2020, working collaboratively with the Department for International Trade. We are simplifying our proposition to make it easier for our customers to trade internationally through our Digital Transformation programme. In addition, we continue to work in partnership with UK Export Finance (UKEF) in exploring ways to make it easier for exporters to apply for, and secure, funding.

“Through all of these activities, we continue to be a committed partner of the Exporting is GREAT campaign and look forward to continue working with the Department for International Trade in 2017 and beyond.”