Trade missions and pavilions across the world help the UK showcase its maritime capabilities and forge new trade links with other maritime nations
Home to one of the world’s most respected maritime sectors, the UK has a long history of promoting itself on a global stage.
The sector demonstrates its prowess through trade missions and pavilions all over the globe, unlocking trade opportunities in the process. Additionally, with the UK set to leave the European Union in March 2019, the country’s maritime sector looks set to play a crucial role in ensuring that the UK maintains a prosperous and steadfast economy.
One key player in the UK maritime sector’s work to boost trade with other economies is the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI). The voice for the UK’s maritime engineering and business sector, the SMI backs a full programme of events in the commercial marine and defence sector to support UK companies in their efforts to increase exports.
“With the dominance of commercial shipbuilding in South Korea and China the exhibitions in these countries and surrounding nations — Singapore [and] Vietnam — are the core events in the industry calendar,” says Tom Chant, the SMI’s director of business development and secretary to SMI councils.
“The European shows of SMM Hamburg, Nor-Shipping and Posidonia support the management and ownership sectors plus specialised vessel-build — although of course, the industry hunts for projects at all the exhibitions. Defence exhibitions such as Defence and Security Equipment International, PACIFIC, the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference, Euronaval and BALTEXPO offer the industry opportunities to meet with local defence attachés and key decision makers.”
For the SMI, the goal at exhibitions is to offer a strong UK-branded environment with extra-serviced meeting space. The organisation works closely with the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) at the shows, with the government potentially offering grants or commercial officer support.
British Marine, the membership body for the UK’s superyacht, leisure and small commercial marine sector, also collaborates closely with the UK DIT at maritime-related events. The organisation has been involved in creating and managing UK pavilions at international boat shows, exhibitions and inward missions. Previous examples of its work include the Superyacht UK Tour of Excellence, where approximately 12 key decision makers from overseas markets from the superyacht industry were invited to the UK by British Marine association Superyacht UK to explore businesses in the sector.
“The objective of this inward mission was to connect the international specialists with the innovation and high quality that the UK is famous for, with a view to securing new trade relationships,” says Richard Selby, international development manager for British Marine and Superyacht UK.
Other British Marine work has included creating and managing a trade mission to the Miami International Boat Show for the UK DIT, organising a British pavilion in the form of a showcase stand at boot Düsseldorf, and showcasing the marine industry through invitations to marine journalists to meet boat builders and equipment manufacturers in Southampton. In addition, the organisation hosts a pavilion under the Superyacht UK name at the Monaco Yacht Show, as well as showcasing almost 100 exhibitors in two country pavilions at METSTRADE in Amsterdam.
If government is serious about ‘global Britain’ it must back British exports
Last week it emerged that Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade would dismiss hundreds of international trade promotion specialists, who promote British exports to countries like China and Brazil.
Not only does news like this undermine the government’s claim to be building a ‘global Britain’, but it also pitches Fox against Chancellor Philip Hammond. What we’re seeing is obvious disunity in government. If Johnson and May, and Fox and Hammond cannot agree on the way forward, one wonders how on earth we can be expected to achieve our already ambitious post-Brexit goals.
There’s an old saying that ‘you must speculate to accumulate’, which says something about the relationship between risk and reward. Brexit is an all-enveloping subject within government and continues to eat up time and resources. Hammond, whose job is to keep public spending under control, will point out that the Treasury has already allocated £74 million in EU exit funding to the Department for International Trade, which already has a budget of £357 million for 2018 and 2019. These cuts mean, however, that the DIT, having already hired up to 800 staff to negotiate trade deals, is also cutting back on officials who work on the ground to help British companies sell their products abroad. Insiders say the number of jobs at risk is ‘in the low hundreds’.
But to accumulate you must speculate, and Fox’s department needs its resources. Though it has £97.3 million more in funding than it did when it was first created after the referendum, it remains one of the most important departments as we navigate our departure from the EU. We heard after the backlash against news of the DIT cuts on Wednesday that The Treasury will make an emergency cash injection into the department worth between £5m to £10m, in order to safeguard jobs and avoid these highly embarrassing cuts. If Brexit is a gamble then we need to tilt the scales as much as possible in our favour. With this in mind, is £5m – £10m really enough extra investment to a department whose budget is £357m? Is an investment that represents a 1.4% – 2.8% hike really a serious commitment? It follows that if 90 per cent of the world’s growth is taking place outside the bloc, a decision to dismiss the officials responsible for taking advantage of that (even if it was a decision that has since been backtracked), seems to be a decision of someone without global Britain’s interests at heart.
But poor allocation of resources seems to be endemic across the Department for International Trade. Today, we have just one dedicated member of frontline staff supporting the export of the UK’s world-class maritime products and services (from superyachts and technical equipment to our leading services). In contrast, other sectors––for example, the creative industries––have some 15 people doing the same thing. The £50 billion maritime sector remains committed to increasing the £500 billion in trade that currently passes through our ports, but the government must play its part as well. We simply cannot make ‘global Britain’ a reality with one hand tied behind our back.
There are tremendous opportunities in dynamic and fast-growing economies across the globe, and to exploit this we need our network of embassies and High Commissions to be assessing the possibilities and looking to our companies to accommodate demand. We live in a competitive global marketplace and competitor countries really get behind their companies. They get more of their companies to more exhibitions and on more trade missions. Those companies get more contacts, knowledge and build stronger relationships, which mean they win more business. Our competitor countries are certainly not scaling back their efforts or their ambition. Neither should we.
Source: Maritime UK (Ben Murray)
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