By Daniel Hunter

William Hague pledged to exporters that the government was “urging you on, backing you up, opening your way and fighting your corner” as he told the CBI Annual Dinner that the Foreign Office was determined to help firms grow into overseas markets.

The foreign secretary spelled out the ways in which his team were helping firms boost their sales in key emerging economies, after explaining how these economies would be a key factor in achieving growth in the UK.

He said that the government had taken its cue from business on export strategy — and was looking to continue working with businesses.

“We have heard these messages and we will strive to improve our performance in all these areas,” Mr Hague said. “We need you to tell the Foreign Office where you encounter difficulties, and to contact us and let us know what more we can do to support you.

“We need even closer co-operation and understanding between us, on trends in the world and opportunities for prosperity.”

Mr Hague emphasised the importance of looking beyond traditional export markets and focusing instead on those economies that are enjoying growth.

“The first task of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to build the relationships that help British business expand market share in the fastest-growing economies,” he said.

The foreign secretary added that the government was “reversing the steady shrinking of Britain’s diplomatic footprint overseas “, saying that 300 more diplomatic staff would be in place in more than 20 countries by 2015, and that two new consulates had opened in Canada and Brazil.

“Across the globe, we are working to support you,” said Hague.

Sir Roger Carr, the CBI president, also addressed the dinner. He said the business world had “four hard truths” to acknowledge before it could get on with the job of helping the UK economy to grow.

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