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Small firms’ trade deal priorities revealed PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Securing continued access to EU markets is a top priority for UK smaller firms when it comes to future trade deals, new research by the Federation of Small Businesses reveals. 

Almost two thirds (63%) of the FSB’s UK members regard the EU as a priority market. Almost half (49%) of firms asked cited the USA as a key trade destination, with about one in three highlighting Australia (29%) and similar proportions naming China (28%) and Canada (23%).

About a sixth of Scottish FSB members currently export, a slightly smaller proportion of firms than for the UK as a whole. The study warns that one in four (27%) exporting small firms would be deterred from trading with the EU should any tariff – no matter how low – be introduced.

The new research also discovered more than half (58%) of smaller firms find the EU single market easier to trade with than non-EU markets, with only six per cent saying the opposite.

45% of current exporters and over half (53%) of current importers find trading with the EU single market cheaper than trading with non-EU markets. Around one in five small exporters trade exclusively with the EU. The study also identifies that non-tariff barriers – such as packaging or transportation requirements – can also pose problems for smaller firms.

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “The UK and Scottish economies cannot afford to see a slowdown in exports.

“FSB is calling on the UK Government to secure the easiest, and least costly, access to the EU single market in the Brexit negotiations. Lots of first-time exporters regard EU markets as a training ground and a lower-risk first step to realising their global ambitions.

“In addition, we cannot underestimate the importance of an arrangement which works for firms which import. Speciality shops and manufacturers need access to global suppliers so they can in turn service their customers. Many of these firms often in turn service UK firms which export.

“Ultimately, this research shows if we want Scottish export volumes to increase then we need frictionless cross-border trade. We’re also calling for greater support for small businesses to reach out to non-EU markets.”

FSB is writing to the Scottish Government and the Scotland Office with details of their findings. The small business campaign has made the case for co-ordinated action from both governments and their agencies to mitigate the impact of any upcoming changes in trading conditions.

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