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UK government plans to create four regional trade and investment hubs, aimed at boosting economic growth, have received a frosty industry reception.
Yesterday, secretary of state for international trade Liz Truss (pictured) announced hubs would be developed in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Darlington as part of the government’s “levelling up” programme.
She said: “I’m determined to use UK trade policy to benefit every part of the UK, and these trade and investment hubs will help this country to an export and jobs-led recovery.
“They will mean we can channel investment into all corners of the country and that exporters – whether selling scotch beef, welsh lamb or cars made in the north of England – have access to the expertise they need to sell into the fastest-growing markets.”
The initiative follows the release of “grim” Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showing substantial declines in EU-bound exports.
Chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink James Withers told The Loadstar there was no “sugar-coating” the statistics, nor could the government “talk away” the decline as simply the result of the ongoing impact of Covid.
He added: “The crash in UK trade has not been seen in sales to non-EU markets, despite it being a global pandemic.”
The government said the launch of the trade hubs would mark the start of a “major export drive”, providing exporters with “a direct feed into UK trade policy” that will allow them to create opportunities in “fast-growing markets like the Indo-Pacific region”.
Co-founder of the investment platform, Regionally, Justin Urquhart-Stewart told the BBC he thought the government had “muddled” the order of its plans for the trade hubs.
He said: “The trick they’re missing is the concept is right, but actually what you need is to create the businesses, encourage exports and then provide the export advice.
“The capitals of three UK nations and Darlington are not necessarily where the industries are.”
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