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UK SMEs 'need help to compete on equitable terms'

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK to be given more help so they can compete effectively on the international stage.

According to David Kern, chief economist at the body, SMEs need support from the government on issues including market knowledge, skills, insurance and trade finance.

This, he said, is important so smaller companies based in the UK can operate on "equitable terms" with their counterparts in other nations.

"While low interest rates and a competitive pound will help to reduce our deficit, British exporters must reinforce their efforts to break into faster growing markets such as China, India and Brazil," Mr Kern commented.

This could potentially help to stimulate the amount of international money transfer activity between the UK and these nations.

Mr Kern was speaking shortly after official figures revealed Britain's trade deficit in goods and services rose from £2.5 billion in January to £3.4 billion in the following month.

He acknowledged that the monthly trade figures can sometimes be "volatile", which means reading too much importance into one statistic can be unwise.

Nevertheless, the economist admitted that this was a disappointing development that indicates the "rebalancing" of the country's economy towards exports is taking place too slowly.

"With the government's deficit cutting measures squeezing domestic demand, a sustained UK recovery relies on exports, business investment and replacing imports with domestically-produced goods," Mr Kern stated.

He warned that exporters in the UK may struggle to maintain their position in international markets amid continuing problems in the worldwide economy, as well as the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics also showed that during February, there was an £8.8 billion deficit on trade in goods and a £5.4 billion surplus on trade in services.

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