Global Britain targets the world

7 min read

Businesses in the UK are determined to embrace the idea of ‘Global Britain’, seeking new opportunities for trade all around the world, new research from Santander suggests.

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This is why Santander is launching Santander Navigator, a new, innovative portal designed to make international growth simple. The online tool guides businesses through every step of international trade, including regulation and shipping, as well as helping users to find the best markets and suitable buyers for their products. Drawing on insights, knowledge and connections from Santander’s global network and international ecosystem of providers, Santander Navigator is a subscription service that brings international markets to your fingertips. 

Overall, UK businesses continue to regard North America as the region of the world that offers the most exciting prospects for growth in their international sales. But while 45% pick out North America, markets closer to home are still regarded as crucially important, with 37% excited about the potential for growth in the European Union. Further afield, there is also healthy interest in East Asia, where 29% of respondents see opportunities.

The research underlines the importance of EU markets to British businesses even after the UK’s departure from the bloc. Indeed, Germany and France, picked out by 19% and 16% of businesses respectively as offering growth opportunities over the next 12 months, look set to remain as valuable trading partners.

On a country-by-country basis, the United States tops the rankings, cited by 37%, followed by Australia (22%). Australia perhaps seeing a rise in popularity due to the recent trade agreement signed with the UK. But UK businesses are also keen to grow in Asia and the Middle East, with China (17%), India (14%), and the United Arab Emirates (14%) all seen as offering good growth prospects. 

Why free trade deals matter

Santander’s research comes amid intensive efforts by the UK government to forge new free trade agreements around the world in the wake of Brexit. Agreements have been signed with Australia and New Zealand, although they are not yet enforced, and talks are currently in progress with countries including, India and Singapore, as well as with the parties involved in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Such deals can prove valuable in helping businesses to identify and access new markets. They also formalise dealings with overseas partners, supporting market access, removing barriers to entry, and providing remedies for dispute resolution. 

For this reason, many UK businesses regard free trade agreements as desirable for their overseas development. In the latest Trade Barometer research, 33% of businesses with international operations point to the need for the British government to pursue free trade deals that would support their sector.

Naturally, businesses are particularly keen to see deals agreed with countries where they see the most enticing sales prospects. For example, 40% of international businesses want to see a deal agreed with the US, while 28% are eager for the UK to reach an agreement as part of the CPTPP and 20% point to the importance of signing a deal with China.

Other help is available

Deals with some of these key markets may follow, but the absence of a free trade agreement should not be seen as a barrier to exploring opportunities in new markets. Most UK businesses recognise this. For example, they continue to see the US as a key area for targeting expansion, even though reaching a trade deal there is likely to be highly challenging.

Businesses also need to recognise that whilst a free trade agreement may remove some of the regulatory challenges associated with international trade, businesses still need to do their research as to which markets offer them the best growth opportunities and find where there is real demand for their products. Although the UK has a free trade agreement with Australia, for example, the sheer distance between the two markets will still mean businesses need to give some serious thought to their logistics, which can add significant costs to operations. 

Even the most attractive free trade deals will not resolve some of the key underlying challenges that exist for businesses operating internationally, such as making connections and overcoming regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles. These have consistently been highlighted as the main barriers to international trade in Santander’s Trade Barometer research and are likely to remain so, even where free trade deals are agreed.

How we can help

Santander Navigator provides a personalised experience for each user and includes a logistics solution, where businesses can select from a range of shipping providers, allowing them to pick the option that best meets their needs, whilst providing them with greater visibility over their shipments. The portal also houses insights from Santander’s experts and its global network of providers, including shipping and logistics updates from across the world.

For more information about Santander Navigator visit www.santandernavigator.co.uk or contact santandernavigator@santander.co.uk. You can read the full Trade Barometer report here.

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