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Working towards an ambitious North East trade and export strategy

The North East England Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are at the forefront of developing a Trade and Export Strategy for the region.

A funding boost from the Department for International Trade will enable us, and our partners, to ensure the voice of the North East is heard as the Government prepares its forthcoming Trade and Investment Strategy.

This presents an opportunity for us to help shape the future of UK trade and export to benefit our region and we are ready to take on the challenge.

Our goal is to prepare a strategy for the LEP area which identifies a future-focused approach for the region to drive more and better jobs, and strengthen productivity and competitiveness within the business base.

To help us achieve this, the Chamber is recruiting an Export Manager for the development of a North East Trade and Export Strategy.

The Export Manager will propose and detail a forward-facing strategy for growing North East trade and export activity in the region.

The plan will focus on increasing international trade with a strong emphasis on supporting earlier stage businesses and SMEs to plan for international growth.

The appointment comes at a time when there have been significant changes in the global economic environment, including COVID-19 and of course the changes to the trading and regulatory environment as a result of the EU Exit.

Trade and investment is a growing part of our economy. The value of goods exports per adult in the North East region is higher than across England excluding London. The value of service exports per adult increased by more than 60% between 2014 and 2017. In 2018/19, the North East region had more than one and a half times more new jobs created per person due to foreign direct investment projects than England excluding London.

In 2019, 59% of the North East region’s exports in goods (by value) were to the EU and 41% were to non-EU countries.

North East exports in goods to the EU increased in value by 10% between 2014 and 2019, from £7.1 billion to £7.9 billion, while North East exports in goods to non-EU countries remained unchanged in value between 2014 and 2019, at £5.4 billion.

Almost 90% of the value of goods exported from the North East region came from three commodities – machinery and transport (55%), chemicals (21%), pharmaceuticals (12%).

As part of the North East Local Industrial Strategy, our aim is to increase the percentage of firms engaged in exporting from 6% to 9.5% by 2030 as a means of raising exports to 35% of annual GVA – with a particular focus on diversification of the goods export profile.

Our Trade and Export plan will align with these goals, in turn informing the Government’s forthcoming Trade and Investment Strategy so together we can drive forward the North East’s economic growth ambitions.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director (North East LEP) and Julie Underwood, International Trade Director (North East England Chamber of Commerce).

Find out about the Export Manager role here.

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North East LEP and regional partners submit response to government’s consultation on UK Freeports

Paul Carbert, Economic Policy Co-ordinator at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, outlines the North East’s innovative response, which would drive economic growth in the region, create jobs and regenerate coastal communities.

As the UK prepares to complete its exit from the EU and establishes new trading relationships around the world, the UK government launched a consultation earlier this year on Freeports policy.

Freeports and free zones are in place in many parts of the world. They are areas within a country’s land border where different customs rules apply, and are being considered by government as part of its future strategy to strengthen trade relationships and secure inward investment. Freeports provide benefits for exporters and importers because goods can be imported into, manufactured, and exported from inside the zone without incurring tariffs and customs duties unless they enter the domestic market. They offer the potential to promote regeneration and job creation in those areas within the zone and drive growth in the wider economy.

The government’s consultation has sought views on how they should structure their approach to Freeports. It envisages that because of their likely location close to ports or in coastal areas, the strategy offers the opportunity to stimulate the economies of often deprived areas. They are also seeking proposals which position Freeports as hubs for innovation to test new ideas and technologies. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and an active list of partners comprising of the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, Business Durham, the CBI, the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Port of Blyth, Port of Sunderland, Port of Tyne, Newcastle International Airport, University of Sunderland, Durham University, Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, submitted a response to the Government’s consultation earlier this month that outlines the region’s preferred approach to Freeports; one that focuses on new growth and jobs, the regeneration of key coastal areas and the development of other parts of the regional economy. It also reinforces the need for the UK’s existing labour market, security and environmental standards to be maintained.

After conducting research and gathering the views of local partners, the North East response has proposed that a multi-site, digitally enabled Free Trade Zone – linking key manufacturing sites in the North East with ports – would provide the greatest benefit for the North East. It would add value to our current economy, provide an opportunity to deploy and test a range of new digital approaches, and guard against the risk of local displacement of economic activity. It would complement a free trade deal with the European Union.

The innovative approach put forward for the North East takes into account the region’s industrial and logistics structure and would build on its wide-ranging assets. It would allow the region’s digital sector to develop innovation that would improve the operation and efficiency of Freeports, and provide an opportunity to stimulate job growth in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, energy, digital, and transport, particularly at a time when the region’s economy will be continuing to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst the region agrees Freeports are not a substitute for a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU – the preference in the North East is for both a deal and a Free Trade Zone – should the UK leave the transition period without a new trade deal, Freeports would mitigate some of the impact and provide opportunities to build on existing supply chains and clusters, and attract inward investment.

Following the submission of the region’s response to the Government’s consultation, the North East LEP and its partners will now work on preparing a collaborative bid to a government sponsored competition which is expected in the Autumn, to establish a North East Free Trade Zone.

To receive further updates about the North East LEP’s bid for a North East Free Trade Zone, please sign up to receive Insights North East, the newsletter from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.