The Cole Commission has published its final report, producing a series of recommendations to improve the UK’s export performance. In the forefront, Commission chairman Graham Cole writes that more needs to be done to speed up the process of achieving the ambitious £1tn by 2020 export target set by Chancellor George Osborne three years ago.

The action points proposed focus around five topics, including:

  • Cabinet-level leadership to drive exports, combined with an implementation committee to facilitate real action;
  • A reformed, customer-focused UK Export Finance (UKEF) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) working as one to champion UK exports;
  • A “One Stop Shop” that co-ordinates and simplifies all SME export support and has a strong focus on enhancing SME digital capabilities;
  • A public procurement strategy that encourages bidders to bring UK SMEs into their supply chain, ready for exporting;
  • An education system that puts international trade and exports on the agenda, through a greater utilisation of foreign students, enhanced diaspora relationships, and a dedicated qualification for exports.

A major change from the Commission’s interim report published last April is the retracting of the UKTI-UKEF proposed merge in favour of a co-location of the agencies, as well as a shared “core set of KPIs that place enhancing exports as the first order priority” and “greater access to UKTI’s international network.” Speaking at GTR UK Trade and Export Finance conference in the beginning of June, Paul Croucher, head of trade finance and insurance solutions at UKEF, said that moving the agencies into the same office buildings was “a possibility we’re looking to explore”.

The Commission also found that support for SMEs needed improvement. They call for an end of the “one-size-fits-all approach” and instead recommend “streamlining the application process for SMEs”.

The full report can be downloaded from the Cole Commission website,