International trade high on the agenda for Chamber members looking to grow | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
Stuart Patrick, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
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International trade high on the agenda for Chamber members looking to grow

By Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

I suspect you won’t be surprised to find that growing international trade for our members is one of Glasgow Chamber’s priorities.  That is what you would expect from a Chamber of Commerce and it was the driving rationale for the founding of the Chamber just over 240 years ago. 

In just about every city in the world you will find the local Chamber of Commerce arguing the case for business and establishing new trading links for members. We are no different and our programme of trade visits has become an ever more important feature of our annual plan. 

In the last week in April we will be taking a trade mission to Singapore and Indonesia as our first step into South East Asia.  We will spend a full week helping our members meet with relevant businesses and organisations in each of the two countries and exploring what one of the fastest growing regions in the world has to offer Scottish companies. 

I spent some time in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia last year and the Asian Development Bank is estimating that growth was 5.6% in 2022 and 4.3% last year.

Taking the ten countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations together would make SE Asia the fifth largest economy in the world after the US, China, Japan and Germany.  

It is also an important market for Scotch whisky. The figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association in February showed Singapore remaining the third largest export market by value in 2023 after the USA and France. Whisky worth £378m landed in Singapore (up by 19% on 2022) and worth more than either India (£218m) or China (£235m). 

The majority of the product reaching Singapore will have been distributed throughout SE Asia as British companies will often use Singapore as the easiest ASEAN country in which to develop a base for serving the wider region. 

But food and drink is certainly not the only sector we are exploring for SE Asia- education, digital technology, health and life sciences, green energy transition and maritime industries are all on our target list.  The details are on the international trade development section of the Chamber website. 

There are several reasons why we are increasing our attention to international trade. We all know the challenges that Brexit has presented in maintaining our links with Europe and while Glasgow Chamber will contribute to the work British Chambers of Commerce does in raising Brexit consequences with the UK Government we don’t realistically see much change in circumstances for the time being.   

Our response has been to double down on deepening our own links in Germany and Norway but also to look outside Europe for opportunities.  SE Asia is being added to our current target list in China, the UAE and the United States. 

We have valuable help in doing this from the Scottish Government’s International Trade Programme administered through the Scottish Chambers of Commerce. This programme helps us to keep the costs of delivering trade missions down and make it more accessible for businesses. 

We also have the local market contacts of support from both Scottish Development International and the UK Government’s Department of Business and Trade. We are especially keen to exploit our own network of British Chambers of Commerce overseas. In SE Asia we will be working with both BCC Singapore and BCC Indonesia, both independent membership organisations promoting UK business interests and both with extensive contact networks.  

We know that entering a new overseas markets is an expensive, time-consuming and risky business and we aim to use all the assets available to us to reduce that risk. We hope as many members as possible will have a closer look at what we are doing in Singapore and Indonesia next month. Please feel free to contact me directly to find out if joining our trade delegation might work for you.

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