I READ over the weekend that the UK is the only country amongst its close European neighbours to have a negative trade balance on exports since the Brexit vote and the figures taken from the House of Commons Library show that the UK has seen a 5.5 per cent decrease in its exports since the 2016 referendum.

The data show Ireland by comparison has seen the biggest increase in its export trade balance of nearly 50% from 2016. Indeed, three of the five best performing exporting countries in Europe since the EU referendum have a similar or smaller population size than Scotland.

International trade development has never been so important to us, and it is crucial that businesses plan for the changing regulatory landscape. Businesses are of course also having to deal with issues around post-Covid recovery, in many cases labour shortages, and managing an increasing focus on sustainability and circular models. However, we are yet to fully experience the true disruption caused by Brexit and businesses must be ready to navigate this new era of trading.

There is a growing debate around how global trade can be harnessed to deliver a circular transition which aims to ‘reduce waste and stimulate product innovation, while at the same time contributing positively to sustainable human development’. A recent Chatham House paper argues that there will be significant effects on the structure of global value chains and trade as the demand for primary natural resources reduces while demand for the reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling of valuable materials increases.

In an increasingly unequal world exacerbated by Covid-19, complex interlinkages between the circular transition and global trade present both opportunities and threats, and we have a unique opportunity with COP26 being hosted in Glasgow in November to align global trade and sustainability.

That is why, during COP26, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is set to host the largest ever international trade mission hosted by a British Chamber of Commerce. We will connect up to 100 businesses worldwide to share best practice in accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable and circular economy. Referred to as a “tremendous catalyst for productive partnerships” by Ainsley Mann, a Trade Envoy for Scotland and Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, our Climate Chamber Mission will bring companies from 10-plus countries across the globe together to increase international partnerships, exports and business growth opportunities. The two-day hybrid event is designed to support businesses in the delivery of circular economy solutions, sustainability and climate targets and will see companies such as Scottish Leather Group, Edrington, Vango, A C Whyte and MacRebur collaborate with businesses from Germany, Indonesia, USA, France, Israel, Italy, Norway, Australia and Singapore.

Aiming to create an international business network via an online community, the Mission will provide the opportunity for businesses to achieve long term learning, innovation and implementation of both climate and business goals. It will utilise the international Chamber network to create lasting joint ventures for Scottish and overseas businesses, while positioning Glasgow as a leading city in the green and circular economy. We are in regular dialogue with members at home and abroad, and we are seeing real traction from businesses worldwide.

Greater international collaboration is required as we overcome the impact of Brexit, post-pandemic recovery and the race to net zero. Our overseas networks and our circularity drive, coupled with the city’s hosting of COP26, gives Glasgow a perfect platform to further partnerships and help businesses connect, learn and trade sustainably.

Richard Muir is deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce