James Ramsbotham is chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce

IT was a real honour to welcome one of the Government’s most senior international trade officials to meet our Global members.

The Department for International Trade Director General for Exports, John Mahon, told us that trade was a top priority for the Government.

His speech outlined the Government’s export strategy, which was launched in August after a lengthy consultation with businesses including ourselves. There was a real desire by him to see that export support matches the aspirations and needs of our companies.

I was delighted to hear him echo my own view that exporting is fundamentally a good thing for any country. It gives increased returns on investment and provides businesses with an excellent boost in terms of sustainability. If a market is slow in one part of the world, chances are there is likely to be another region where it is more buoyant.

As part of his speech he also outlined his aim to increase the number of UK exporters and enable existing ones to expand based on distinct areas. His department is encouraging new exporters by targeting some specific sectors and removing real or perceived obstacles, for example trading with Nigeria where there are huge opportunities but often misconceptions on risk.

The reach of the DIT is vast with connections to staff placed in 108 countries. We know at first-hand how helpful these can be through the Northern Powerhouse trade missions, organised with our own DIT colleagues. Indeed, we currently have colleagues at a Food and Drink conference in Shanghai and another trade mission going to Boston in early December.

John Mahon was also very specific about his ambition to grow UK exports and told our members he wanted to increase its percentage of GDP up to 35 per cent from 30 per cent. He was keen to hear what our regional exporters need for this to happen.

In the Chamber we have a tremendous team who work closely with many exporters giving advice on everything to documentation to preparations for Brexit. However, we also hear at first hand problems on a range of issues and it was extremely useful to have the opportunity to air some of these concerns.

John has already visited our region three times in the eight months he has been in his post so I see this as a great indication of his genuine desire to help us, and until Brexit clarity is delivered, we certainly need all the help we can.