Chamber news: Red Tape, Regulation & Costs Holding Back Exports

Dec 4, 2023

• Almost half (49%) of businesses say current customs checks and declarations are a barrier to exporting. This rises to 62% for manufacturers

• Taxes and duties, due to tariffs, are the next biggest stumbling block for two fifths (40%) of firms.

• Regulations, such as product certification, cause problems for a similar proportion of businesses (38%)
A survey of almost 650 UK businesses by the BCC, has shown that customs checks, tariffs and regulation are the top three barriers to exporting.

The research also found that transportation costs (37%), volatile exchange rates (31%), political and economic uncertainty (27%) and rules of origin requirements (23%) were other obstructions.

The findings come as the Office For Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) latest forecast said the UK’s trade volumes were expected to stagnate in the medium term, and UK trade intensity still remains below its pre-pandemic level.

The forecast also predicted real exports to average growth of just 0.1% a year between 2024 and 2027.
  
Commenting on the research, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said:  
  
“The OBR’s forecast makes for pretty sobering reading on the challenges we face in the UK’s push to raise exports to the £1tn level.

“But our findings highlight the key priorities for business that could make a difference, when it comes to UK trade negotiations and other related policy developments.

“What they want to see are faster customs processes, removal of non-tariff regulatory barriers, tariff reductions where these could make a difference, fewer hoops to jump through and greater certainty.

“With the UK Government involved in trade negotiations with so many countries right now, including India, South Korea, Canada and Mexico, these findings are a timely reminder of the important issues.

“The push towards increasing the amount of trade we do digitally also has the potential to smooth the flow of global trade, but we need to get more international partners on board.

“Boosting the UK’s exports is a crucial part of solving the country’s productivity puzzle and getting the economy back to greater growth. Although global demand is under pressure, there remain huge opportunities for us in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing and green innovation, if we get the framework right.

“The BCC’s Trade Manifesto sets out a comprehensive list of steps that politicians and policymakers could take, both in the UK and beyond, that could make a real difference.” 

Liam Smyth, Managing Director of the BCC’s brokerage service, ChamberCustoms, added:

“With a stalling economy and a cost-of-living crisis it has never been more important to get Britain exporting.

“But we face an uphill challenge in persuading more firms to trade overseas when so many of them are put off by red tape, costs and paperwork.

“That’s why the shift to an on-line system can ensure that checks can be carried out away from the border, removing a big chunk of the uncertainty for traders.

“This is especially important for smaller firms, given the challenges of the current economic climate.

“The UK Government also needs to focus on pushing awareness of free trade deals, especially among smaller businesses, and take decisive action on reducing some of the removable EU red tape costs for traders.”

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