Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.

5.3 Overseas missions, exhibitions and events

Overseas missions, exhibitions and events are a critical means of raising and enhancing Scotland’s profile and for businesses to connect with their customers in-market. 

Trade missions are a useful platform for exporters to learn about new markets and meet prospective customers. They can be particularly valuable to new and novice exporters who can benefit from the experience of other trade mission delegates. SDI currently organises around 60 overseas missions per annum. We will continue to support overseas trade missions, particularly those that are targeted towards our priority markets. 

Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers network also organise a number of inward and outward trade missions to various countries. 

The Scottish Government has committed up to £2m over the next 3 years to the Chambers network to support the development of a programme of inward and outward missions for Scottish businesses to markets identified in this plan. 

This work will build on the existing trade mission activity already developed and delivered by the Chambers network in markets such as Ireland and China.

Outward missions are arranged in selected countries or regions and these are typically matched with a return inward visit to strengthen trade opportunities. 

We will:

• Work with the Chambers network, in partnership with SDI, to develop a programme of inward and outward trade missions in line with the market priorities outlined in this plan, offering opportunities for businesses to realise their export ambitions.

5.3.1 Dubai Expo

The next World Expo will take place in Dubai between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021. The theme of this World Expo is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. World Expos are a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges by offering a journey inside a universal theme through engaging and immersive activities. The Expo in Dubai is expected to be the largest held in the region, attracting 190 participating nations and around 25 million visitors worldwide.

Scotland intends to participate fully in the UK pavilion at the Expo to ensure we are showcasing our strengths across the themes and specifically focusing on trade and investment, culture and education and innovation. The Expo will provide the opportunity for Scotland to further raise and enhance its global profile, to promote our investment proposition and to pursue our export growth objectives.

As a global event there will be opportunities to use this as a platform for trade missions that reach out to businesses in many markets where Scotland has specific strengths. In addition to this, the United Arab Emirates, as a market in its own right, is Scotland’s 15th largest export market, worth £645m in 2017(13). It is, however, in the top 10 export markets for Scotland in some specific sectors, such as drink, machinery & equipment and services relating to oil and gas. Again, the Expo presents an opportunity to deepen business-to-business connections in this market. Our Trade Envoy to Dubai has played a valuable role in supporting SDI there and engaging with our key Expo stakeholders. 

We will:

1. Work with SDI to develop a strong business programme for Expo 2020 that focuses on trade and investment activity aligned with the priorities in this plan.

2. Work across Scottish Government to ensure we are raising the profile of Scotland at Expo 2020 across all themes.

3. Capitalise on other global events like the Rugby World Cup in Japan and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in China to maximise opportunities for Scottish businesses to reach international markets.

5.3.2 International market intelligence

The export support needs of a business in overseas markets will often differ depending on how developed, well regulated and transparent their target market is, and how experienced they are at doing business in that market. Well developed markets tend to be transparent, predictable and have high levels of regulatory predictability that make it easier for businesses to obtain market information and meet relevant contacts. This is not always the case in emerging markets. 

Less experienced exporters often require more traditional export support services, such as basic market research provided by agencies and introductions provided by Chambers of Commerce, GlobalScots or Trade Envoys. More experienced exporters are often more self-reliant and generally need different types of export support such as political intelligence and, if required, economic diplomacy or ministerial interventions.

Sound market intelligence is a key business tool that every successful exporter requires. As shown in the chart below, this intelligence can come from a variety of sources, including commercial businesses. The Scottish Government, partners, agencies and networks are also able to provide advice and support to exporters. This support can range from informal advice on the local market to structured, in depth reports on regulatory matters and potential customers. This support is delivered by a range of organisations and the table below provides an illustration of which can provide what. The Scottish Government, SDI and our stakeholders will tailor our services and export support to Scottish businesses dependent on need.

Market Development and Company Export Experience Chart

Political and business intelligence

Having an understanding of the political context of markets is a valuable way of de-risking the exporting process. This intelligence can give a view of the stability of the market and appetite for change or regulatory reform that may have a bearing on the business environment. Decision makers in foreign owned firms may not be based in Scotland. Scottish Government’s network of external offices and the UK government’s Foreign Office ambassadors and prosperity teams based in embassies overseas are often well placed to provide insights. Department of International Trade offices and our Trade Envoy network will also have an awareness of the political environment in their local countries. Ministers who have recently visited markets may also be able to offer insights.

Market research

Every exporter should take time to research a new market that they are planning to enter. SDI offices are able to undertake basic market research and DIT offices, through their Overseas Market Introduction Service, can (at a cost) provide an in depth assessment of the market and potential clients to meet. Some Chambers of Commerce also provide market research services to their members.

We will:

• Operationalise much of the data that underpins A Trading Nation by making it available to Scottish exporters in a user friendly format on an appropriate digital platform.

Sector specific regulatory information

A clear understanding of the regulatory requirements exporters are obliged to follow is essential as mistakes and misunderstandings can be lengthy and expensive to resolve. SDI, DIT and Scottish Government offices can direct exporters to the appropriate regulatory bodies and market research can often provide a basic understanding of regulatory requirements. In more complex technical matters, lawyers or the relevant trade or standards authority should be consulted. 

Introductions and informal advice

One of the most important aspects of winning business is to be introduced to the “right person” in the buying organisation. This is where our extensive network of overseas offices, Trade Envoys and GlobalScots can play a valuable role in facilitating introductions and providing informal advice on how to approach the market. Exporters should make good use of them. Even if they do not know the right contact they will often know somebody who does. 

Market access

Trade barriers and market challenges can hamper export growth. Exporters should make DITI, SDI and SG hubs aware of any practices in destination markets that they view as unfair so that we can investigate further and, if appropriate, take action with regulatory authorities using the local embassy, DIT office, Scottish Government office or SDI office. Issues of particular importance can be raised by visiting ministers with their counterparts.



(13) Export Statistics Scotland 2017

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