The Government has announced a raft of measures to increase overseas trade and revive attempts to rebalance the UK economy towards exports.
Chancellor George Osborne said exports are “too low” and promised that new Trade Minister Lord Livingston “will have all the firepower he needs”.
The former BT chief executive starts work next week with a brief to promote Britain’s high-value, high-growth sectors.
Mr Osborne is doubling to £50bn the export finance capacity available to support UK businesses and will expand the help to firms in developing economies.
He told Parliament: “The Prime Minister’s visit to China this week is the latest step in this Government’s determined plan to increase British exports to the faster-growing emerging markets – something our country should have done many years ago.”
In spite of a concerted drive to boost exports, only a small proportion of Yorkshire’s 345,000 businesses are trading globally.
The Government will broaden the scope of the existing direct lending and working capital schemes for exporters; it will double the number of export finance advisers and encourage insurance, pension funds and other investors to lend in support of UK exporters.
The Government plans to spend £9m on increasing the presence of UK Trade & Investment in India and China and will open British business centres in six key emerging markets to support SMEs.
Ministers will also consider reforms to UKTI to give it greater financial independence and recruitment flexibility to back British business overseas and compete for inward investment.
Business leaders welcomed the moves.
John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Plugging the gap in export finance is essential to growing exports and the economy.
“UK Export Finance is raising its game and offering growing businesses a stronger, wider range of products. We now need to see a renewed focus on supporting our medium-sized businesses, the unsung heroes of our economy, as they try to crack new markets.”
Richard Little, tax partner at accountancy firm KPMG in Yorkshire, said the improved export finance scheme offers the region’s exporters of all sizes “a wonderful opportunity” to seize the moment while minimising financial risks.
“However, to date, it has been largely unrecognised and certainly under-utilised.
“Hopefully, today’s announcement will encourage exporters to grasp the nettle further, while maintaining the UK’s position as a place for foreign investment.
“It is also encouraging news that UKTI is receiving increased funding to expand on the excellent foundations for growth it has established to date.
“After all, the potential for products and services originating in Yorkshire, to gain markets in China, India, Brazil, Africa and South East Asia, where huge rising middle class populations require infrastructure, technology and consumer goods in huge quantities, and quickly, is well docu-mented.”
The Government said UK exports to non-EU countries have increased by 30 per cent since 2010, but only 7 per cent went to Brazil, Russia, India and China last year.
Crisis-hit Europe accounted for 39 per cent of exports last year, while 17 per cent went to the United States.
Jonathan Riley, head of tax at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, said medium-sized businesses (MSB) have outperformed their small and large counterparts on exports as the UK has pulled out of recession.
He said: “In 2012, MSB exports grew by 3.8 per cent despite the recession in the UK’s main export market, the EU.
“Firms will welcome the Chancellor’s move to strengthen export finance capacity up to £50bn to help businesses tap into emerging markets.
“MSBs are increasingly looking beyond the US and EU to other markets, including China, and the Chancellor’s focus here today is encouraging.”
Phil Orford MBE, chief executive of The Forum of Private Business, said: “The more money to support export the better so we welcome this doubling of funds.
“A large proportion of this needs to support first time exporters and for existing exporters to do so to new markets.
“The Government should consider using this money to subsidise exporting into new mar-kets.”
UKTI said it helped 32,000 companies to export in the last financial year and is on course to support 40,000 this year.
UKTI funds 32 international trade advisers in Yorkshire.