UK Trade Access Programme to be scrapped?

With all of the hype and conjecture surrounding the UK's 19 July ‘Freedom Day’ and the implications for events, you may have missed a story from the UK newspaper, The Times (9 July), 'Trade show blow to UK’s small firms', in which James Hurley, enterprise editor, reported that “ministers were planning to scrap a programme that helps small companies win overseas trade.

The programme he refers to is the UK's Trade Access Programme (TAP) which provides a package of support ostensibly to SME’s to encourage and help them export. As part of the Government's Industrial Strategy there is a stated aim to increase the value of UK exports from the current 30% of GDP to 35%.

Baroness Fairhead noted: "Typically government doesn’t export, businesses do, so our focus is on identifying where government can help companies to achieve growth, productivity and job creation associated with export success.”  TAP provides a range of services aimed at “encouraging, informing, connecting and financing” businesses to enable them to export more. It supports a range of sectors from supporting UK Pavilions at Cannes Lions and Food Events to manufacturing events in the Philippines, Fintech in Chile and The World of Drones and Robotics in Australia. 

TAP provides a vital service to UK companies that otherwise might not look to export. It demystifies what can be a daunting process and offers grants of between £500 to £2,500 to subsidise the cost of exhibiting – sometimes the difference between exporting and not for many cash strapped SME’s. Companies can use this system up to six times, so it is a real benefit for those that take it up and use it effectively.

The UK's events industry association, AEO, has supported this programme enthusiastically and has a stated aim to encourage Government to provide a similar service to businesses exhibiting at UK events so it will be a major blow if The Times report is correct.

Scant detail on replacement scheme

TAP sits under The Department for International Trade (DIT) which has said it would work on “future arrangements for supporting businesses” but as of yet has not provided any detail. There seems to have been very little consultation with the industry over plans to scrap and replace the funding.

The replacement scheme maybe a vast improvement. Let us see.

The Times article quotes Maritime UK, British Marine and the Society of Maritime Industries, which have written to Graham Stuart, minister for exports, expressing their dismay over the move, calling it a “retrograde and short-sighted step for British exporters, especially SMEs”.

Tom Chant, chief executive of the Society of Maritime Industries, said: ““It is vital this scheme is replaced with something bigger and better if we are to properly enable SMEs to compete on a level playing field against their international competition and crucial to retaining our status as a global maritime leader.”