Last week’s Welsh export figures have shown big drops in the value of exports to key markets that have been visited by Welsh Government trade missions,.
Export levels to countries identified as key markets for Wales including the USA, China, Japan and Turkey have decreased. Each one of these countries were visited by Welsh Government trade missions in 2013.
This week the Welsh Government rejected a key recommendation of a report from the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee which, after taking evidence from business leaders and people who deal in international trade, had called for Key Performance Indicators and targets to be set in order to judge the success or failure of trade missions.
The value of Welsh exports has fallen over the last twelve months overall which is a concern, but within that there have also been big falls to key markets. Drops in trade to America, China, Japan and Turkey are noticeable as each of these countries had a high profile trade mission in the last year, led by a Welsh Government Minister.
Each of these countries has been identified as a key market for Wales, yet exports to these countries is going down. That will be seen as nothing but a failure for the low-key in-house trade support services that the Welsh Labour Government provides.
Last Wednesday the Welsh Labour Government dismissed a chance to put in place proper targets to ensure that trade missions and other activities are successful; we need to ask why Welsh Labour Ministers so afraid of these trade missions being properly scrutinised?
These foreign trips cost a lot of money for the Government and the businesses who go on them, and many of them will be questioning the benefit of attending if no new trade is forthcoming and export levels continue to slump.
If we want to sell the benefits of Welsh firms going on trade missions, the Government needs to understand what is working and what is not. That involves evaluating past visits and assessing the economic benefits to Wales and individual businesses, so we can focus our resources in the most effective way.