Now is not a time to be complacent

The CEE region, whilst still having a lot to offer UK companies, may soon have to face the prospect of being overshadowed by the renewed and invigorated interest in markets of strategic importance further afield. Data is beginning to show that UK businesses are increasingly conscious of potential around new export and investment destinations. Increasing its number of markets, a business trades with reduced risk and increases growth possibilities in the long term. In the light of Brexit and the cited new opportunities across global markets, companies that took comfort from a well-known, abundant trading bloc are now considering expanding their horizons in earnest, with the top three contenders being the US, the Middle East and China.

The US economy is growing, and whilst China’s is slowing down, it is still a strong performer relatively speaking. The recent slowdown in eurozone GDP growth partly reflects moderating global demand and persistent Brexit uncertainty. This should send a strong signal to the emerging Europe region that its work is not yet done. If it is to contend with both old and new competitors, it needs to sharpen its pencil.

There is no question that the European continent will continue to be of significant market interest for UK companies, but with Germany still leading the pack as the European market of most interest, the rest of the pack will need to learn to fight harder for market share. It’s time to really showcase the unique selling point and high value opportunities in each market in the emerging Europe region by clearly defining their value proposition and distinguishing themselves from each other.

The recent Emerging Europe awards successfully demonstrated that some markets are very good at this and those agencies that are responsible for trade promotion across the region are working hard to improve their marketing portfolios, with one or two truly excelling at the job. This is a marked change from years gone by and it is absolutely a positive step, but the role of market promotion should not fall upon only a small number of incumbents. It is the role of the many to shout from the hilltops about market opportunities. Chambers of Commerce have long been at the forefront of these activities and the British Chamber Network across the world has long demonstrated its commitment and strength in driving bilateral trade and investment and business relationships through clear marketing and promotion messaging and activities.

One of my favourite truisms is that every challenge brings opportunity. There has never been a more opportune time to amplify the region’s attractions and remind UK companies that the emerging Europe is a diverse and intriguing region, abundant in opportunities for trade and investment and very much open for business.