Page 2: Representation
Trade Associations, sometimes working together in alliances, are important pressure groups. They represent the views and interests of their members to politicians and other key individuals and organisations locally, nationally and internationally (particularly at EU level). The dialogue is not one-way. Governments with proposals in mind will normally approach Trade Associations for a view on any important issues likely to affect their particular sector of industry. Trade Associations seek to influence legislation. Recent examples include lobbying the government regarding proposals that are intended to:
- close down rogue businesses that threaten the image and interests of the travel and tourism industry
- introduce tougher safety standards within electrical contracting
- enable UK road haulage firms to compete on more equal terms with firms based in mainland Europe
- lead to a workable system for monitoring how financial institutions conduct their business.
Where an industry is overseen by a Regulator, the Trade Association will seek close contact with that body too. Trade Associations also look to influence public opinion through the media - e.g. in newspaper articles and television appearances.
Trade Associations aim to generate a positive image of their sectors and to provide regular news and information to the media. If the sector is in the news, they are able to provide an authoritative voice. For example, an ABTA representative appeared on UK television to advise on travel to the USA following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.
Trade Associations are well placed to produce authoritative information and statistics on their industry sector - e.g. guidance on new legislation, new regulations and other technical, legal and commercial developments that may affect members’ businesses. This is an important service for their members. They also supply data to governments and other businesses that use it to inform their own decision-making.
Trade Associations play an important, enabling role for their sectors by carrying out activities that will encourage business success. They help develop a strategic vision for their sectors, often working with a range of stakeholders to co-ordinate mutually beneficial strategic action. Examples include:
- Market analysis - identifying the most promising markets
- Export initiatives - promoting the sector in target markets abroad through exhibitions and trade missions
- Competitiveness initiatives - taking action to increase productivity
- Research - encouraging development and transfer of technology
- Advisory and consultancy services - helping members to improve their business
- Training - collaborating with education and training providers to develop career paths and to prevent damaging skills shortages
- Technical standards - working with standards bodies such as the British Standards Institution and international bodies to ensure compatibility and quality of products and services
- Legal and contractual - establishing forms of contract that facilitate co-operation between firms
- Consumer protection - developing codes of practice and redress mechanisms to increase consumer confidence.