Anger over lack of Government support for Sheffield trade mission to Canada

William Beckett of the International Trade Forum
William Beckett of the International Trade Forum
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The organiser of a Sheffield trade mission to Canada has hit out after the Government offered £200 in travel costs days before it starts.

William Beckett, of the International Trade Forum, said he was “incredibly frustrated and annoyed” at the offer which came too late for anyone to join the trip, starting on June 6.

He is one of 12 people from seven companies set to meet bosses and government officials and attend the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary.

The mission, being led by Master Cutler Craig McKay, had the backing of 25 companies when it was announced last year, Mr Beckett said.

But this fell to just seven due to government export body UKTI ending financial support for trade missions at the end of March and a downturn in the oil and gas sector.

On Wednesday, UKTI reversed its decision and offered £200 per person towards travel costs after pressure from the Company of Cutlers and The Star.

Mr Beckett, who sold his Sheffield plastics firm last year, said: “I’m incredibly annoyed and frustrated, it’s too late for people to rearrange things and join the mission.

“To get people to go out there is no easy task, small companies need support.

“It is a ridiculous situation when the Government has a target of hitting £1 trillion annual exports and 100,000 new exporting companies.”

But Mr Beckett said there was a silver lining – the row had led to the visit taking on a new importance and more high level meetings were planned, including with the Canadian government minister of trade.

A BIS spokesman said: “UKTI is also offering soft support. For this trip, we’ve helped devise the programme, organised meetings, made introductions to key contacts in Canada – all absolutely vital for a successful trade mission.”