David Coppock
Tom Keighley

North East firms seek exotic markets as Europe remains challenging

North East companies are looking further afield to generate new business as the Eurozone remains mired in economic difficulties, according to one of the region’s senior civil servants.

Regional director for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) David Coppock says the challenges in Europe are having a positive effect in driving more regional firms to lucrative outside markets.

In September’s HMRC statistics, regional exports were shown to be falling - and the makeup of the North East’s top exporting destinations had changed.

David said: “We’ve seen more regional businesses turning to emerging markets and it reflects the difficulties the European economy has been having. Businesses haven’t had the customer pull-through in Europe as they might have had historically.

“From UKTI’s perspective we’re encourage that North East companies are growing their order book in emerging economies. There are many economies out there that are growing at 4, 5 and 6 per cent, per year.”

David stressed that it isn’t an ‘either-or’ situation and the North East needs a strong and prosperous Europe to succeed.

He added: “For the North East the EU growth agenda plays directly into the UKTI export agenda. Brussels are highly supportive of the region’s exporting and they back that up financially too.”

Diversity in the region’s exports has long been problem according to many commentators - particularly given the dominance of Nissan’s contribution to the regional statistics.

David explained: “Nissan is a fantastic asset to the North East, but we’re a lot more diverse than just automotive exports. Our thriving chemicals sector more than matches automotive sales, and pharmaceuticals is also up there.

“The regional economy is much better balanced than it was perhaps 20 years ago and we’re continuing to diversify. Of course, more needs to be done - and that means getting more firms on the international path.”

UKTI are innovating to achieve that goal. Over the next few years the organisation will make offices private sector-led, introducing chambers of commerce from around the world to operate them.

Initially around 40 countries’ offices will be transposed from civil service operations to commerce-led.

Bdaily asked David if the political cycle and changing policies made continuity difficult in UKTI’s work.

He said: “There are mechanisms in place to make sure there is continuity and it’s certainly not the case that everything will grind to a standstill in 2015. There’s a programme in place, which has cross-party support, which aims to double exports by 2020.

“The macro targets are in place but it’s the sub-projects that are key decisions.

“Landing inward investment takes a long time and we work hard at this, not only in the region, but in promoting the North East in markets that we’re out and about in around the world.

“Securing something like the Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe requires a lot of work over an extended period of time.”

UKTI is constantly leading firms around the world on trade missions, and upcoming North East trips include the international medical trade fair, MEDICA in Germany; Shenzen in China, and Arab Health in Dubai.

This week marks Export Week and UKTI North East host ExploreExport today at the NewcastleGateshead Hilton. The event event will bring specialists from markets as far afield as Algeria and Australia, India and Italy to Panama and Poland, Uganda and the USA.

There will also be a series of seminars covering a range of topics to help companies overcome some of the basic barriers to export including getting goods to market, export documentation and finance.

More information on Export Week events in the North East can be found here.

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