Almost 400 businesses attended events across the North West last week to learn about international business opportunities as part of UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI’s) sixth Export Week.

The North West International Trade Team ran a range of free events aimed at helping companies across the UK to make the most of their overseas potential, covering markets from the Gulf States to Central and Eastern Europe and from North America to Asia Pacific.    Topics covered included everything from freight forwarding to finance and from case studies to cultural differences.

There was also a successful series of Women in International Trade Forums taking place with all female panel sessions, as well as webinars covering the basics of customs regulations in partnership with HMRC.

As well as encouraging non-exporters to explore opportunities overseas, Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director, UKTI North West, challenged existing exporters to make this the year they reach out to a new market.

Clive said,

“I would like to encourage companies to make this the year that they explore one new market. If every current exporter in the region achieves this, we could increase the GDP in the North West by an estimated £2 billion, significantly aiding economic recovery and giving a boost to our competitiveness as a region. The UK has only 0.8% of world population, and we need to reach the other 99.2% – one market at a time.”

Local companies have already responded to the challenge with Cumbria’s Hawkshead Relish, which extended their exports to four new countries so far in 2014, aiming to target a fifth before the end of the year; Blackpool’s TISS Ltd pledging to export to Kenya, Rochdale’s Hi5 Electronics aiming for Turkey and Chemostrat heading for Chad.  In addition Liverpool’s Clarke Energy announced opening a new office in Morocco.

During Export Week, UKTI North West also announced the 2015 Export Champions. Now in its third year, the Export Champions programme is unique to the North West, and involves recruiting successful international firms to help new companies on their export journey, offering peer to peer support in addition to the wide range of individually tailored professional services available from the UKTI team.

There are now over 60 UKTI Export Champions in the North West, with the new companies including Cheadle cosmetics company Grace Cole, Merseyside ceramics designer Alison Appleton, Barrow engineering firm SN Group, Lancashire lighting firm Chelsom and Cheshire’s Delamere Dairy joining existing Export Champions ATG Access Ltd from St Helens, Uncle Joe’s Mintball manufacturers William Santus and Co of Wigan and Blackburn home décor giants Graham and Brown.

Welcoming the new intake of Export Champions, Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director, UKTI North West, said;

“Exports are vital for economic growth and in the North West our Export Champions are an integral part of our strategy, which is why I am delighted to have persuaded even more of our best exporting firms to join us in the drive to increase exports.

“Our Export Champions will inspire and motivate those new to international trade, both by promoting the benefits of export via their own successes and by sharing knowledge and experience.

“It is fantastic that so many businesses are willing to help contribute to the prosperity of the North West, both via their own companies and now with the help they have pledged to give to others.

“It was encouraging to see so many people during Export Week and to hear about many of the region’s success stories. I hope we have inspired more North West businesses, to consider exporting and look forward to hearing some of the success stories in the months to come.

“Exporting is crucial to the growth of our regional economy. The British brand is incredibly strong throughout the world, bringing with it a reputation of credibility and reliability and there has never been a more opportune time to take advantage of overseas prospects.”

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