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Opinion: Dr Liam Fox on giving small businesses a global focus

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The Government is working closely with major high-street banks to ensure small firms can access finance to help them export, writes Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade.

Trade is a vital part of the UK economy and central to this Government’s ambition to build a country that works for everyone, creating jobs and transforming local communities and industry. 

The UK is already the world’s sixth-largest exporter, a position we aim to improve on as we look to establish the UK as a global, outward-facing trading nation following our departure from the EU. 


We need to foster a culture of exporting, empowering and enabling UK businesses like yours to seize the opportunities out there to sell goods and services into new markets. That’s why, in October, I convened the Board of Trade to help identify and unlock new export markets. It’s why we’re working closely with FSB, who are helping us to understand the support you need on your export journey. 

And it’s why we’ve launched a new partnership with the five major high-street banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS/NatWest and Santander – allowing smaller businesses to access Government-backed trade finance from UK Export Finance (UKEF) directly from these banks.

According to bank research, if you start exporting, you will grow on average by a third in just two years. Exporters can achieve levels of growth that may not be possible domestically, spread business risk, realise economies of scale, and ultimately increase revenues and profits.

The Department for International Trade can help you access global opportunities. GREAT.gov.uk is a one-stop shop to help you locate and access export contracts, the information you need on new markets, the right online marketplaces and the services you need – for example, translation and logistics. 


Finding the right finance is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you stay competitive. That’s why UKEF is on hand to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance. UKEF works with banks to help businesses access the finance they need, opening up global opportunities for UK companies. Since 2012, UKEF has provided £14 billion of support for companies to do just this. 

This major innovation is a clear demonstration of our commitment to helping SMEs export. But it is not the only innovation we have introduced. UKEF is now extending its support to companies supplying to UK exporters. If you’re selling to an exporter but not exporting yourself, you will also now be able to access trade finance from UKEF. And this is available from all UKEF partner banks, not just the ‘big five’.

This second innovation will allow thousands more companies to benefit from Government-backed finance support, helping the UK’s SME manufacturing sector grow its presence abroad through exporters’ supply chains. 


Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and giving you the support you need to seize international trading opportunities is a priority for the Department for International Trade – which is why we really value our relationship with FSB. With these innovations from UKEF, we are harnessing the power and reach of the UK’s biggest banks and the UK’s export credit agency to deliver the finance you need to make your exports happen.