UK trade secretary Liam Fox has highlighted the importance of focusing on emerging markets as part of Britain’s post-Brexit trade strategy at a meeting with the country’s new trade commissioners.

The nine trade commissioners, who are responsible for championing UK businesses in their designated region, met with other representatives from the department of international trade (DIT) in London last week to give updates from their region, outline their current priorities and discuss the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, currently scheduled for March 29.

Speaking to GTR after the meeting, Fox said: “Her majesty’s trade commissioners are integral to the work of DIT.”

He added: “We need to look at emerging markets and put businesses in a prime position so that we continue to see an increase in demand for British goods and services around the world.

“We want to help the economy continue to grow, and the trade commissioners are a catalyst to that cause. They promote the UK overseas, secure inward investment and build strong trade relationships for the future.”

Banks at the centre of facilitating financing for UK exporters are also clear that building links with emerging markets would likely lead to revenue growth in the medium to long term.

Speaking at a Citi treasury and trade event on February 27, the bank’s Emea trade co-head, Peadar Mac Canna, said: “When you look at the trends over the past 10 years, and we will see over the next decades, that trade flows in and between emerging markets, such as Latin America, Africa and Asia, are growing at a much faster percentage than the EU and developed markets.”

Last week’s meeting was only the second time all nine commissioners have gathered alongside the trade secretary since they were appointed in 2018. The commissioner positions were proposed as part of the 2017 Conservative election manifesto and then created by DIT, which was itself only formed in 2016, following the UK’s EU membership referendum result.

While in London, the commissioners also attended a cross-department ‘prosperity conference’ where they met with senior members of the UK’s trade network.

In commentary exclusive to GTR, the UK’s trade commissioners have laid out why UK exporters should be bullish about their trade prospects going forward and offered their top tips on how to succeed in the various global regions:


Natalie Black, HM trade commissioner for Asia Pacific:

“Asia Pacific is one of the fastest growing and diverse regions in the world providing opportunities for UK business across a range of sectors and at different stages of growth. The connections between countries in the region are growing, particularly within Southeast Asia, so my advice would be to not only consider individual country opportunities but how you use the pace of change across the region to help grow your business, whether that’s using e-commerce or joint ventures. DIT can provide on-the-ground advice and support to help you build your networks and understand the opportunities to ensure you are set up for success with the right partners.”


Richard Burn, HM trade commissioner for China:

“China is a huge market with significant potential for UK exporters, our fifth-biggest trading partner and sixth-largest export market. DIT China is supporting British companies of all sizes, with a strong focus on market access: working with our Chinese partners to remove barriers to business, simplify regulations and create new long-term opportunities for our firms.

I urge exporters considering China market entry to contact us if they need help to identify business partners or advice on the regulatory environment. With a team of 180 across the China network and deep sectoral expertise, we stand ready to help.

The China Britain Business Council is another resource with years of practical experience helping SMEs to launch in China. There is much more support available than many businesses realise: come and join us on the China journey!”


Joanna Crellin, HM trade commissioner for Latin America and the Caribbean:

“Don’t underestimate the scale of Latin America and the Caribbean – in terms of its size and as a source of opportunities for UK companies. This is a region where relationships really matter, so my top tip for UK companies would be to take your time to find the right partners – whether for distribution, representation, a joint venture or advice. Local knowledge really matters and will mean you will be ready to take the opportunities when they arise. The pace of doing business in the region can vary hugely – don’t expect immediate results but be ready to move very fast when a product or service meets demand.”


Andrew Mitchell, HM trade commissioner for Europe:

“Many small businesses start their export journey in Europe. We want to make your journey simpler and easier. So from March, you will be able to reach DIT in Europe through a single contact point. The new Europe Trade Hub will work with companies to connect you with experts working in embassies and the private sector, to source market research, to seek advice on doing business in new markets or to access potential new customers in Europe. With over 40 very different markets across Europe, businesses are often discouraged from exporting by lack of knowledge of the markets that will best suit their products. We will aim to fix that.”


Simon Penney, HM trade commissioner for the Middle East:

“There are considerable opportunities for UK companies across the Gulf states as each government has put in place a long-term industrial transformation strategy. These are reflected in each country’s vision strategy. I would encourage companies to engage with the DIT to understand how we can help UK companies on their export journey.

Relationship building with customers is customary across the region, so businesses should see this as a long term programme of engagement. We are also keen to help businesses that may be doing business in one country to explore opportunities beyond to increase their footprint and customer base. This is particularly true for countries outside the Gulf such as into Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan as well as into Africa and Asia.”


Antony Phillipson, HM trade commissioner for North America:

“North America is a prime market for British exporters: the US and Canada offer huge growth opportunities. UK exports to the US were worth almost £55bn in 2018, more than twice as much as exports to any other country.

These sizeable opportunities can be challenging to navigate, though, and in North America, UK firms must recognise the scale and complexity of markets containing extensive variation in regional demand, demographics, and regulation.

DIT staff are an excellent resource to help determine which North American market is the best landing point for your firm and to enter the market in a way that will maximise your chances of success.”


Crispin Simon, HM trade commissioner for South Asia:

“South Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with the scale and scope to warrant significant interest from UK companies. Investing in the market now has the potential to reap significant dividends. This growth does come with challenges around identifying credible partners in country and general ease of doing business (EODB). However, India in particular is making a concerted effort to move up the EODB rankings. I would encourage companies to use our HM government network to establish those strong links you’ll need within the region and to find the right sectors and regions to enable you to grow your exports and your business.”


Judith Slater, HM trade commissioner for Eastern Europe and Central Asia:

“As is clear from the nearly £18bn of British exports to Eastern Europe and Central Asia last year, there are plenty of opportunities in this region, but don’t be too impatient. Besides the key extractive sectors like oil and gas and mining, new opportunities are opening up in sectors like healthcare, agriculture and financial and professional services. Do your market research, and think long-term, rather than short-term. Make sure you visit the market regularly and ensure you find yourself a good local partner. Relationships really matter, so take the time and trouble to get to know your potential partners and customers, as well as the local business culture.”   


Emma Wade-Smith, HM trade commissioner for Africa: 

“Allow yourself to be amazed at how fast Africa is growing and changing. We can help you build relationships, find the right partner, and research the right markets for your business. You will need to be patient, rigorous in doing your homework, and prepared to adapt to find the right way to grow your business in this vast continent. But whatever your risk appetite and your product or service, the diversity of Africa means there are opportunities to do good business somewhere on the continent.”