97% of exporters optimistic about global trade prospects

Ninety seven per cent of exporters questioned in a survey said they were optimistic about growing their businesses through international trade.

Spearheaded by the Institute of Export & International Trade – the UK’s only professional body offering recognised, formal qualifications in International Trade – the research involved responses from over 200 Institute members and the wider export community.

Respondents were positive about future trade prospects despite fears of a growing US protectionist agenda, national elections across Europe potentially upsetting the status quo – and Britain’s possibly fractious divorce from the EU.

While 93 per cent of those taking part were upbeat about exports to the EU, participants were moderately optimistic about opportunities with the US and cautious about trading with India, China and Russia.

Exporters surveyed remain concerned about Brexit – 87 per cent forecast it would result in a loss of trade and 40 per cent expressed uncertainty over negotiations and their outcome.

Nevertheless, over half of the respondents regarded extending their overseas markets as the single biggest opportunity for their company this year – with a 3:1 ratio looking to grow markets overseas and almost one third seeking to achieve this expansion in 2017.

This confidence extended to investment – with nearly a fifth of businesses working in international trade planning to invest in their marketing spend and 15 per cent looking to develop new products. While 12% plan to invest in plant and/or machinery or extend their premises, just 5 per cent will invest in training.

When examining further opportunities for 2017, 12% recognised the value of extending their offer with additional services to increase revenue.

Almost two thirds (61 per cent) have contingency plans in place for foreign exchange risk and just over half (52 per cent) have a plan for credit risk. Whilst half have prepared for cyber attacks, less than a third of participants have a strategy to avoid the risks involved with customs compliance.

Institute Director General, Lesley Batchelor OBE, said: “The importance of businesses managing currency risk is a fundamental part of ensuring profitability when trading in international markets.

The survey results indicate that 60% have plans in place for this, which is a significant level, however all businesses should do so. In practice, use of forward foreign exchange contracts and matching of currency payables and receivables are the most frequently used methods of managing this risk.”

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) was established in 1935 and is incorporated as a registered charity under the patronage of HRH The Duke of Kent. The Institute’s mission is to enhance the export performance of the United Kingdom by setting and raising professional standards in international trade management and export practice. This is achieved principally by the provision of education and training programmes.

The full report is available here.