Let's talk... the value of international trade

We caught up with LEP lead Chief Executive for Business, Innovation and Growth, Kersten England to find out more about a recent report that looks at international trade in Leeds City Region.

  1. Why did you decide that research was required about export?

Up until now, we’ve had a real gap in knowledge about the international trade reach in Leeds City Region. It’s traditionally only been collected at a Yorkshire and Humber level. At the LEP we want to increase the amount of trade local businesses do globally, so we needed a snapshot in time to get a better understanding. We recognise that selling overseas is both vitally important to the regional economy, confirmed by the estimate that it’s worth a massive £9.75bn, and to individual businesses we work with like Seabrook Crisps and Hopkins Catering.

  1. What are you going to do with the findings of the report?

This report gives us the headline facts and some interesting pointers. The next stage is to investigate further and start trying to refine where there are opportunities to maximise sales of our strongest performing commodities.

It also means we have a foundation to build on with our partners, like the Department for International Trade (DIT). We need to knit together what we know locally, what these results tell us and translate that into a plan for increasing exports.

  1. What are the highlights of the report?

We’ve created an infographic that gives a snapshot, but for me what’s particularly interesting is our top three selling commodities: medicinal and pharmaceutical products, organic chemicals (which includes hydrocarbons, alcohols and acids) and general industrial machinery and equipment.

We’ve some great success stories in the region, not least Brighouse-based Blackhall Engineering who have recently supplied the world’s largest water gate valve to Texas, a stunning feat of engineering and a showcase for the region’s expertise in valves. Bradford-based Seabrook crisps have just announced they’ve landed a lucrative deal to supply their products across Australia in Aldi stores.

Another highlight is that our businesses really are driving the Northern Powerhouse, with the region contributing 67 per cent of Yorkshire and Humber’s total exports.

As Chief Executive of Bradford Council I was particularly delighted that Bradford businesses are internationally trading goods worth £1.6bn, 16 per cent of the region’s total, but I feel strongly that given our diversity of communities and links across the world, we can build on this.

  1. What potential opportunities would you like to explore further?

According to the findings, our strengths in pharmaceuticals, chemicals and industrial machinery could reach more markets in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico. That represents a key area for further investigation.

We continue to develop specific opportunities in China, through our partnership with Kaola.com and we’ve put forward a proposal with products 39 companies for the Kaola team to consider to sell through their website. China is a vast market, the user base of Chinese online shoppers reached 467million in 2016, with 40 per cent buying international products.

Another element of this work is simplifying the route for business people to start exporting, and export more. It’s great that a new peer-to-peer business community, called Exportexchange.co.uk, was launched in June this year that means local business people share their knowledge and expertise with other business people who’d like a bit more support to target a new overseas market. Learning from the experiences of others is such a valuable way of boosting your chances of success.

We’re also focusing on the Gulf in September, and we’ll be releasing a video featuring 2 local business women who will talk about their experiences doing business there, so look out for that!

If you'd like more information about selling more overseas, or would like a conversation about business support in general, call our team on 0113 348 1818 or email businessgrowth@the-lep.com.