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Doctor's orders - January 2018

04 November 2017

Dr Carl Hunter explains how trade has lifted so many out of poverty, enables national prosperity, creates UK social cohesion and helps to enable global security.

UK BUSINESS leaders are optimistic and acting with certainty and clarity of purpose to achieve the long-overdue Global Britain we strive to achieve, and which for so long has been subsumed within our recent EU emphasis.

I have no doubt that the UK will become again outward-facing on EU Exit and that it has within its grasp the possibility to become the global leader in free trade which is the basis for our historical prosperity and the reason we are a G5 economy. The UK Government are at the helm of creating “pipelines” of opportunity for British business. But I do not sense that UK Plc or indeed the news media have yet noticed that HMG, through the work of the Department for International Trade, is now “in front” of, rather than behind, UK business. 

This has never happened before in my 28 years business experience. It is a triumph for DIT. We know that the UK has a relatively low percentage of companies that export at all. But the risk to the UK economy is wider. UK companies must see exporting as natural to perform as it does their domestic trade and aim to exceed their domestic trade by their exporting ones. Then the pipelines of trade opportunity being created will realise the potential for our companies and country that they can. As our society grows more plentiful and ages we consume more. That is a sign of prosperity but we need to pay for it and exporting provides for it.

The simple basis that the best UK companies operate on is the integrity by which we perform science being replicated in the principles by which we transact commercially. We compete by using that old American principle of being, “Better, Faster, Cheaper”. We are world leaders in our specialised fields as a consequence of finding new overseas markets and sectors within them.

We export by looking at the world through Churchill’s three concentric rings of influence in the UK’s relationships with the USA, Europe and the Commonwealth and the fourth   - articulated in the Prime Minister’s Philadelphia speech – the Rest of the World. We can so easily make use of the UK’s historical and current UK trading, military or diplomatic links to create our own cultural entry points. Overseas customers feel comfortable with us because we speak with authority and certainty of these. Many remember how UK companies used to more regularly visit them. The vast majority see the British as outgoing, adventurous, decent, humorous, trusted, and contractually reliable and quality manufacturers. They see our country as having been a great global trading nation. I believe we can be that again.

We look at the world through many means, including time zones, and recognise the correlation between the shipping routes of the late 18th century and the density of the undersea internet cables network of today. They are remarkably similar and the reason why the UK has the second highest density of data centres outside the USA. By understanding that correlation and that density of global trade, one’s target export markets become more obvious, and instead of exports being an addition to our domestic trade, they become the drivers to it. In exporting so heavily we harness a far greater array of global customer feedback than others to further innovate and drive product and system development.

Some British CEO’s need to be encouraged perhaps, but certainly imbued with, a higher sense of purpose and “national duty” to succeed in overseas markets. Most UK CEO’s could and should do this. For if they are successful in their highly competitive home UK market, they can already assume that their products and services have a higher probability of export trade success too. We have magnificent business leaders in the UK but some are more complacent, unworldly and introverted than they like to admit. I believe that their entrepreneurial spirit can be activated and readily harnessed so that they change and adapt to our export opportunities.

Our country is creating a magnificent structure for a Global Britain but it has to be realised by energising candidate exporters here at home to utilise it. This can be done. If you agree, I would warmly like to help lead this for you or to play any significant part that I am able to so as to support you.

Dr Carl Hunter is CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics. For more information, visit www.coltraco.com