INTERNATIONAL trade must be at the “forefront of the UK economy”, according to the chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

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John Dugmore’s comments came in response to the latest UK trade figures published by the Office for National Statistics, which showed a deficit in goods and services of £3.2billion in December 2012, compared with a deficit of £3.6bn in November.

“Despite the slight improvement in the trade deficit in December, it is clear that the global economy is failing to provide any tangible support to the UK’s economic recovery,” said Mr Dugmore. “The figures also showed that in 2012 as a whole, trade deficit was £37.7bn, significantly up on £23.6bn deficit in 2011.

“The Government must do all it can to put international trade at the forefront of its economic strategy, and encourage non-exporters to start thinking global.

“We welcome the Government’s expansion of trade promotion budgets, and would urge them to go even further to support firms wishing to break into new markets.

“UK businesses are determined, but need all the help they can get if they are to succeed in driving an export-led recovery.”

Last month, Suffolk Chamber launched Exporting is Good for Suffolk as its theme and focus for 2013. It has already received wide local and national backing, including a message of support from Lord Stephen Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment,who said: “Both the Prime Minister and I are totally committed to supporting UK companies to win more business overseas and we both whole heartedly welcome your ‘Exporting is Good for Suffolk’ campaign for 2013.”

Mr Dugmore added: “Although the trade figures show a small fall in the deficit in December, they remain disappointing.

“The UK’s external deficit is still significant and we are not yet making sufficient progress in rebalancing the economy towards net exports.

“But we must remain positive. Suffolk and British exporters have considerable untapped potential.

“There is realistic hope that we can make more progress in 2013, if the Government implements the measures it announced to support companies looking to break into new markets.

“We also need a national export strategy that focuses on key areas such as trade, finance, promotion, and insurance, and would enable British firms to penetrate new and growing markets and compete on equitable terms with other exporters.”

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