Publishers have welcomed the government’s new export strategy, which challenges firms to see exports as a proportion of UK GDP rise from 30% to 35%.
The international trade secretary Liam Fox laid out the targets in a speech on Tuesday (21st August), saying that while the UK punched above its weight in exports, with the value of goods and services shipped out of the UK at a record high of £620bn last year, it also punched “significantly below” its potential.
“Exports represent 30% of our GDP, which is broadly similar to France, Italy and Canada, but substantially behind Germany. Given all (our) strengths, we should be at the top of this pack, not in the middle,” he said, adding that the UK should “set its sights high” upon leaving the European Union.
To help businesses up their export capabilities, Baroness Fairhead, Minister for Trade and Export Promotion, said the government would encourage and inspire firms that have not started to export, provide them with information, advice and practical assistance on exporting and connect them to overseas buyers and markets using its networks in the UK and overseas.
Fairhead also pledged to “place finance at the heart of our offer.”
Working with trade associations and other export support providers would be “critical” to the delivery of the export strategy, she added.
“Raising our exports as a share of GDP from 30% to 35% is a formidable challenge, but the world is calling out for the quality goods and services the UK provides. It’s an ideal time for us all to step up, work together, and answer that call,” she said.
The Publishers Association (PA) has welcomed the export target as “ambitious but achievable” if the government followed through on its pledged to engage support across Whitehall and business.
“UK publishing is a model of export success and with 60% of industry revenues now coming from overseas publishers understand the potential and the challenges of broad international markets,” Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the PA said.
The focus on practical support for SMEs was welcome for small publishers along with the commitment to continuing the vital support they receive from the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) funding.
However, Lotinga added: “While the government’s commitment to work with trade associations is also welcome, this engagement must be meaningful and with a practical focus on enhancing and enforcing the IP rights that so many UK exporters depend on.”
The Federation of Small Businesses praised the government’s export aspiration but said more financial incentives, such as grants and "export vouchers", were needed which small companies could use to invest in things such as translation services or market research.
Publishers’ export sales were up 8% in 2017 to £3.4bn, accounting for 60% of total sales, according to the PA's annual Yearbook. The fall in the value of the pound after the UK’s decision to Brexit in June 2016 has helped UK businesses’ wares seem cheaper and more attractive to foreign buyers, including publishers' IP. However, speaking last month, Lotinga said another reason for publishers’ success overseas was UK creators’ IP being “in demand around the world”.
Altogether Europe accounted for 36% of the invoiced value of exports in 2017, down from 39% in 2013. East/South Asia saw its share of exports increase from 15% to 18% between 2013 and 2017, with the Other Americas share up from 5% to 8%. North America and Africa Sub-Sahara’s shares each fell by 1% point over the same period, while the Middle East/ North Africa and Australasia maintained 14% and 9% shares respectively.
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