Time to bring back the export department
David Brooks 21.07.2016
Before Britain joined what was to evolve into the EU, it was common for British companies to divide
the world into two main spheres. The Home market and the Export market.
The appointment of the new British Foreign Secretary - a job title that in itself reflects the division of the world into Home and Foreign affairs - has certainly sparked a lot of interest. What surprised me was the role is being filled by someone who actually speaks a number of languages other than English. In one major company I worked for an expertise in foreign languages was apparently not a requirement. In another company I dealt with the export manager didn't even possess a passport! Turning the clock back still further, my father worked for a company that traded to all corners of the globe - English speaking corners that is - all in a pre-Internet, pre-international telephones era too, where the telegraph was the 'killer product" of communications.
The Home market was covered by a team of salesmen, branch managers, area mangers, regional managers - may be more. Export desks dealt with the Empire, later becoming the Commonwealth and handled through branch offices. Where I worked we actually had a Europe desk, run by a man who could actually speak a few European languages, but also had a profound dislike of foreigners. Given this organisational structure it is surprising anyone ever imagined British membership of the EU was a good idea at anytime. Of course what actually happened is that big businesses became huge businesses and then global businesses in response to big political groupings like the EU. With an HQ in a low tax country like Luxembourg or Ireland soon these huge global companies were paying less tax than the local shop keeper. Of course they wanted Britain to remain in the EU. But now the opportunity is there again for enterprising British companies to export to a global market again.
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