The regional trade statistics for the first quarter of 2015, released by HMRC on the 4th of June, show a downturn in the value of both exports and imports.
UK exports decreased by 4.7% to £283 billion, while imports decreased by 1.3% to £403 billion.
Some Ups – but more Downs – with Export Partners
None of the four UK countries saw an increase in exports during the year, although the value of exports rose in Northern Ireland. In England, which accounts for 74% of total UK exports, the annual export value fell in all regions except the North East, the West Midlands and the South West.
England’s top 5 export partners are the USA, Germany, Netherlands, France and China, but only the value of exports to USA and China were up compared to Q1 last year, with exports to the Netherlands down more than 15%. England’s exports to the EU decreased by 6.4% during the last year, while exports to non-EU countries decreased by 3.5%.
Machinery and transport equipment remain England’s top export, with its market share up 1% to 43% cent over the year, but these exports have decreased in value by 2.2%. The largest value decrease, however, was seen in the mineral fuels, lubricants & related materials sector, which was down 37% (£7.3 billion).
UK imports are also dominated by England, which accounts for 83% of total UK imports. The value of UK imports fell for England and Scotland but increased for Wales and Northern Ireland, although imports into Wales decreased by a substantial 16%.
England’s top five export partners are also their top five import partners (albeit sitting in different positions), with Germany remaining far and away the top import partner, accounting for 16% of all imports into England. The largest value increases were for imports from China, up 9.1% (£2.5 billion) and from Germany, up 4.2% (£2.1 billion). Non-EU partner countries accounted for 46% of England’s imports during the year, down slightly from 47% in Q1 last year. The largest value decreases were for imports from Norway (down 22%) and the Netherlands (10%).
Remain Ambitious, urges FSB Chairman
John Allan, National Chairman of the FSB, responded to HMRC’s report by commenting that reaching Government exports targets would be hard, but that it is clearly a long term effort and businesses should “still strive to meet these targets”.
“What these latest figures show is that we need to redouble our efforts and instil an export-oriented mindset in our businesses, and especially those about to start-up in business,” said Mr Allan. “If more businesses are to enter the export market then there needs to be a change in mindsets which will only come from continuous effort and support. This support must be pro-active and continue to be tailored to the specific needs of start-ups and small businesses.”
The FSB Chairman also pointed out some “positive signs” in the report, noting the small increase in businesses exporting from the UK and the increased trading with China. “The UK’s export strategy needs to build on increasing exports to these faster growing markets, especially while the difficulties in the Eurozone continue,” he said.