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Funds for exporters

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Beama, the British electrotechnical manufacturing association, has condemned government proposals to reduce financial support for major export schemes. Association director Jan Fillingham, who heads its exhibitions and overseas missions team, says: “It is extremely disappointing for a sector such as ours to be informed that Government is reducing much of its financial support for major export schemes.

“Beama, like other trade associations, provides successful support schemes and services to firms at little, or no, cost to government. Annually, they take over 9,000 companies abroad to 450 shows/missions – government plans will see these services scrapped. The immediate impact will be to restrict companies’ overseas marketing activities – in particular smaller businesses.

“We understand the need to reduce Civil Service overheads, but curtailment of the Support for Exhibitions and Seminars Abroad scheme and channeling grants through the regions will not achieve this.”

Jan Fillingham continues: “We consider the RDAs (regional development agencies) as lead organisationswill have no national benefit. It could create a ‘divide to fail’ scenario. RDAs will have a self-interest. Thus, their liaison with, and support of, sector-focused national organisations such as Beama will be disregarded.”

The government department responsible for the shift in policy, UK Trade & Investment, says it has a responsibility to help all companies and organisations in the UK seeking advice or support.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will now be the principal beneficiaries of its financial support, with an improvement in funding to the middle market. This follows an RDA pilot scheme in the West Midlands.

An additional £4m put into the scheme in 2004/5, representing a 27% increase, will strengthen the regional trade operation. By 2005/6 this will see some 2,250 new exporters assisted and 4,000 established exporters directed into new export markets.

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