Lord Mandelson wants to help you export more: will it work?

It's rainy, it's Tuesday, and it's nearly winter: doom, gloom, misery. Cue trade minister Lord Davies, whose plans to allow businesses to secure trade credit insurance from the government for the first time in 18 years might cheer you up.

The plans will give banks a guarantee they will be paid if they issue confirmed letters of credit to British exporters trading with overseas companies on contracts due to be settled within a year.

The proposals follow a call by business secretary Lord Mandelson for businesses to trade more oversea.  Addressing the Economist Emerging Markets Summit in September, he said although businesses were having problems securing credit insurance, they should be planning 'for the long term'.

"Businesses should be strategic about their exports," he said. "Many emerging markets are outperforming developed economies and are expected to grow strongly for years to come."
In June, the government  extended its credit insurance scheme after a 51% rise in trade credit insurance claims meant a significant reduction in the number of businesses being offered credit insurance by private companies.

Although the scheme prompted criticism from business organisations, who said it should have been backdated to April 2008, Lord Mandelson was positive about it at the time: "We are acting decisively to... allow businesses the breathing space to adjust their business models in response to the current climate," he said.

But until Lord Davies' plans come into force, things don't look hopeful: HMRC's  quarterly UK Trade Estimates showed UK exports were feeling the twin effects of recession and currency fluctuation: in the 12 months to June, exports had fallen by 1.4%, while the value of exports from the UK fell by 1.2%.

"There's not as much government prioritisation and support as there used to be," says former Institute of Export director Ian Campbell in this morning's Telegraph. "The approach of the treasury is that any support is a subsidy - that is until the banks get into a mess."

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