It is still a world of opportunities for UK exporters

Business Insights

Despite all the uncertainties surrounding Brexit there are still multiple opportunitiesfor companies looking to expand through exporting.

Exporting to Europe and Ireland, our closest neighbours, particularly while we remain within the European Community and enjoy the favourable tariffs of membership should not be discounted despite all the what ifs and maybes. Many companies have set up contingency arrangements, made new partnerships, and found new suppliers to simplify their logistics chain and as a result have been profiting over the last two years while other less adventurous companies sat on their hands waiting to see what would happen.

It really is time, though, to look beyond Europe to many of our established and traditional trading partners in the wider world, across the Atlantic, the Middle East, India, the Far East and South America. Fortune favours the brave, and sterling’s depreciation which meant that British goods and services became more attractive than ever, created opportunities that should be seized. There is a host of potential customers out there just waiting to be approached.

Beyond Europe, the English speaking nations tend to be favoured especially North America and Canada, the US is the UK’s top trading partner, accounting for almost 17 per cent of all British exports. As the world’s largest economy, the US imports a rich mix of British machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, mineral fuels, commodities and manufactured goods. In Canada meanwhile, top imports include petroleum products, gold, spirits and aircraft engines. In the aftermath of the EU referendum, Canada has expressed its desire to strengthen trading ties with the UK.

Exporters are into uncertain territory given President Trump’s conflicting announcements concerning tariffs, and the potential consequent disruption to existing world trading arrangements, but many economists remain optimistic.

Throughout the world British luxury goods remain in high demand, especially in emerging markets, where they are often seen as high status items. A visit to London’s premier shopping destinations, such as Harrods, Liberty’s Selfridges, Bond Street or Saville Row will find a throng of Middle Eastern, Chinese and Japanese customers keen to acquire luxury British brands.

When we think of markets for luxury brands the oil rich Middle Eastern countries come to mind and British exports to the Middle East are rising fast. Saudi Arabia is the UK’s largest trading partner in the region, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the largest civil exports market. Stable regimes in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, and the recent lifting of sanctions in Iran, open many potential opportunities in the region.

While the top export to the Middle East is vehicles, British imports also include medical instruments, pearls and gems, telecoms and sound equipment. British-made luxury goods are very popular – especially in Qatar, although each Middle Eastern country comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.

China’s potential as a trading partner has been in the news a great deal of late, especially in light of President Trump’s trade wars and various intellectual property disagreements. China, however, is a great trading partner and not just as a
sub-contract manufacturer. China’s extraordinary economic boom has led to the rise of a flourishing middle-class hungry for imports. Between 2010 and 2013, the country more than doubled imports from the UK.

Jaguar Land Rover remains the UK’s biggest exporter to China, where the newly wealthy have been buying up premium brands in droves. The top ten UK industries exporting to China span a diverse range of industries including electrical machinery, mineral fuels and oils, medical, optical, photographic, cinematographic and measuring equipment, vehicles, plastics, fruits and grains, and organic chemicals.

When considering the Far East exporters should also consider the potential of the wider region, which analysts predict will become the fourth single largest market by 2030, and includes Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

As evidenced by Theresa May’s visit, early in her premiership, to the country, India is a very important market for UK goods. Successive governments have reduced trade barriers to boost foreign investment and imports. Although silver, gems and jewellery top the list of UK exports to India, the country’s mass urbanisation has fuelled demand for industrial machinery and power-generating equipment.

When considering exporting to India businesses should thoroughly research their chosen region as each state can have its own language and cultural practices.

Exports to South America are also on the rise, re-establishing the trading relationships that a couple of generations ago saw the export of UK machinery and equipment to the continent. Today UK exports include machinery, vehicles, plastics and beverages. This year alone, nearly one in four SMEs exported to the region – with Brazil topping the list of export destinations. Goods carrying the “Made in Britain” label carry serious kudos across the region.

Export is not just alive and well in the UK it is thriving, so why not join in and start growing your business? It is vital to carefully research your market but there is plenty of help available from UKTI, your local Chamber of Commerce and the chosen country’s trade representatives.