'Export support needs radical change'
Government support for exporters needs major overhaul if the country is to avoid becoming 'a bit-part player on the international stage,' according to Andrew Graham, Graham & Brown chief executive.
Brown, who is an ambassador for UK Trade & Investment, the Government body that helps business trade overseas, says UKTI is concentrating too much on small start-ups which have never exported, rather than medium-sized companies that already export. In a letter to Vince Cable, business secretary, Graham says the programme should be run by the private sector, but underpinned by the Treasury, to speed up the service and make it more commercial.
'It is fashionable for politicians to talk about rebalancing the economy by helping businesses to export more, but the reality is that those in power are often hampering firms rather than helping them because of a naive system that is too bureaucratic, slow and uncompetitive,' he says.
'UK Export Finance treats lending money for export as a massive risk but doesn't consider the jobs and growth created, in contrast to countries like Germany and Canada, which are streets ahead of us.
'The other mistake politicians make is focusing on very small businesses which have never exported, instead of backing the best – those who already do it and who, with a little help, could do a lot more. If we want to avoid becoming a bit-part player on the international stage, we need to back the winners who have the best chance of creating more jobs and growth.
'This is all about helping the country as a whole, and therefore we have to look at which businesses have the most potential to grow. That is how you rebalance the economy and reduce the trade deficit.'
Exports account for half of the wallpaper company's £90m sales.