Mixed reception for UKTI revamp
UK Trade and Investment, the government agency responsible for promoting British business interests overseas, has announced a new strategy to reorganise its activities.
While many in the exporting community would welcome some kind of change, its “refocusing” has been prompted by the need to reduce costs in the face of a 30 per cent budget cut between 2005/06 and 2007/08.
Key aspects of the reorganisation include shifting the focus of export support from developed to emerging markets, reducing headquarters (as opposed to “in the field”) staff by 40 per cent from 2004 levels and deploying “joint sector” teams in the territories in which it has a presence. These teams will be responsible both for supporting British exporters and promoting foreign direct investment into the UK.
David Wilson, spokesman for the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of manufacturers’ association, the Engineering Employers Federation, has mixed feelings. “It’s right to look at emerging markets like Vietnam, but there are dangers if this involves overlooking more developed ones like South Africa and South America.
“The other thing that seems apparent is a continued emphasis on encouraging foreign direct investment and export of financial services, while we see more value in helping existing exporters of manufactured goods. It does seem to be moving further in this direction than it has for the past five years but it’s all underpinned by a budget cut.”
Another aspect of UKTI’s strategy is to increase the proportion of income derived from charging companies for its services – including a subscription-based website providing access to Foreign Office diplomatic and economic reports.