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Navigating business in international markets

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 17 May 2022

As the UK signs new Free Trade agreements, ICAEW’s Global Trade Community explores the opportunities for businesses to expand into international markets.

For many businesses, breaking into the global market by offering products or services internationally is a daunting prospect – and often for this reason they never take the leap.

However, exporting can be key to sales growth, expanding customer base and protecting against local market conditions, not to mention creating a name for the business’s brand. There are big opportunities for UK brands – being ‘British’ can be a USP in a new market.

When is the best time to prepare to sell to new international customers and markets? Could it be now? To explore this theme further, ICAEW held a free webinar on Friday 20 May 2022 to identify the markets that are opening up to business, to offer advice on the support on offer and highlight some of the common pitfalls that exporters may face along the way. 

The event was produced in collaboration with tax compliance platform Avalara and hosted by ICAEW’s Head of Business, Simon Gray, who is passionate about SMEs capitalising on the opportunities to grow and prosper that new markets offer.

Expert speakers

Speaking on the panel was Shehzad Chaudhary, Deputy Director at the Department of International Trade (DIT), who shared the latest update on deals that have been signed as well as forthcoming negotiations.

“Exporting is so important for the UK’s future prosperity,” Chaudhary says. “We’re committed to opening up markets around the world for UK businesses. We know exporting businesses are more competitive, pay higher wages and are more profitable, and we want to support as many businesses as possible to fulfil their potential on the international stage.”

Alex Baulf, Senior Director of Global Indirect Tax at Avalara, adds: “Over the next decades, the world’s emerging markets – the rising middle classes in Latin America and Africa – will be important to every brand. If you wait 10 years to get serious about those markets, it may be too late. Other countries, particularly China, will have an insurmountable lead and can shut you out of these markets.” Cross-border selling is a diversification strategy and a way to ensure your brand is relevant to the consumer of the future, Baulf adds.

Common pitfalls

Tax issues and ensuring the business pays the right amount of tax at the right time is top of the list when selling internationally for the first time. Often the team given the job to expand the business into new markets doesn’t necessarily have the knowledge and can make tax compliance mistakes very early on.

With more consumers buying online than in previous years, and more expected to do so in the future, countries are working to ensure customs duty and import tax are collected as required on all imports.

It’s vitally important to do due diligence with the partners you select when selling internationally. 

“You need good partners that will understand the process. At Avalara, this isn’t our first rodeo,” adds Baulf. “A good partner will spot the synergies and any gaps. We help businesses roll out a process technology system that is scalable in nature as the business continues to grow.”

Extra help is available

Help is on offer to businesses, especially at the SME end of the spectrum, as they may need extra support. The DIT has a plethora of help on offer including the International Trade Adviser network, trade missions, trade fairs and the internationalisation fund. “It doesn’t matter what stage of the exporting journey your business is at, there is a DIT service and support out there for you,” Chaudhary says.

ICAEW’s Global Trade Community is planning further webinars with Avalara later in the year, looking at the opportunities to expand a business’s operations to North America. Book this upcoming webinar, taking place on Tuesday 27 September 2022: How to sell into the USA - Top practical tips.

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