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The UK’s first E-Commerce Trade Commission was launched on 13th June, to encourage 70,000 more small British businesses to trade and export online and help boost the economy by £9.3bn

The Commission – made up of leading industry experts – is the first of its kind and will act as an advisory group directly to the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).  

The aim of the Commission is to help UK small businesses – which form the backbone of the economy – to take advantage of e-commerce trade opportunities and capitalise on the recently signed trade deals. 

The Commission has been brought together by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), the leading membership body for businesses and individuals which trade internationally, and will be chaired by its Director General, Marco Forgione.

“The E-commerce Trade Commission is a unique opportunity to make positive changes that truly support small British businesses and comes at an important time for the UK. Buying goods online has fast become the norm for consumers and UK businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of new trade agreements being signed by the government which have specific provisions, included those relating to e-commerce,” said Commission Chair and Director General of the IOE&IT Marco Forgione at the launch event.

“There are high ideals as to what the Commission can and will achieve – but, for me, I want to reflect on ‘why’. The reason for encouraging more businesses to trade internationally is because all the evidence shows that these businesses are much more sustainable, more resilient, more innovative, with more people and more profit. The only way we’re going to tackle the significant challenges of the current economic and social challenges we’re facing is through international trade – it is an essential economic imperative that we achieve this.”

The Commission brings together some of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, with board members including Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Google and Shopify. The Commission also includes the Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Association of International Courier & Express Services (AICES).

The Commission officially launched with an inaugural board meeting at County Hall, London on June 13th. The Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, Secretary of State for Business & Trade attended to give a keynote opening speech and speak first-hand with business leaders on how to best support UK businesses to take advantage of e-commerce export opportunities. 

Opening the event, the Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, Secretary of State for Business & Trade Business said: “I’m really pleased to be launching our E-Commerce Trade Commission this morning. I set a very clear priority that we need to increase UK exports to a trillion pounds by 2030. And helping more UK firms to trade digitally will help us to reach this ambitious target. We’re already growing exports by knocking down trade barriers so that UK businesses can access new markets and we are working to sign new free trade agreements. Our new free trade agreement with Australia, which came into force just a couple of weeks ago, is a good example of that.

“We need a change in perception of exporting and how we talk about it. We have many resources to help UK businesses trade internationally – we should be talking about all the new things a business can do, what’s happening right now to increase international trade, and change our perception around exporting.

“The UK is home to the most advanced ecommerce market in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Our new e-commerce and trade commission is going to build on that position and bring government and business together identifying clear and deliverable changes to boost UK ecommerce trade.”

The Secretary of State was accompanied by newly appointed Exports Minister Lord Offord who made his first public speaking appearance in his new role:

“Why are exports so important? Companies that export tend to be higher margin, have higher productivity and pay higher wages. We’ve just signed a new deal – the CPTPP – with really exciting countries like Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan. They’ve got the fastest growing middle class and they’re all consumers who want to buy products made in Britain – and we have to help SMEs get there. The Department for Business and Trade has toolbox of support to achieve this: including consults in other countries, trusted partners such as distributors or potential clients, and help with finances. It doesn’t matter where a business is based – you can be in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland, as long as you’re online, we can get you exporting to these exciting new markets.” Lord Offord of Garvel.

The unique independent cross-body Commission was created following recommendations made in a 2022 report from the Social Market Foundation, commissioned by Amazon and supported by the IOE&IT, which investigated the state of UK e-commerce.

The report found that there is significant untapped potential which could see 70,000 more UK small businesses exporting – and a potential boost in output of £9.3 billion gross value added (GVA) across the economy. It also found that among retail businesses selling overseas through a website, e-commerce exports generate £100,000 a year in annual revenues on average. Among firms with 10 or more employees, the average is about £950,000.