The UK is missing out on £10bn worth of exports a year to a group of emerging economies, according to a study by Standard Chartered bank.
Annual exports to what Standard calls the Emerging 7 (China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia) are currently worth £24bn.
But the bank, which specialises in financing international trade, calculates it should be £34bn a year.
Of all the G7 countries, the UK could be a big beneficiary of closer trade.
Standard Chartered urges the UK to orientate its Emerging 7 (E7) trade policy accordingly.
Michael Vrontamitis, the bank’s head of trade for Europe and Americas, said: “With the UK settling into a slower pace of growth and Brexit on the horizon, UK businesses need to look more widely for growth.
“It is clear that the E7 countries represent multi-billion-dollar trading opportunities for the UK and British businesses searching for export diversification and growth.
The study was immediately welcomed by the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, who has repeatedly stressed the opportunities that Brexit presents to refocus trade policy on faster growing economies.
He said: “As an international economic department, we are supporting businesses meet this demand, target overseas markets and succeed on the global stage, so we create more jobs and prosperity in every part of the country.”
However, the study does not examine the potential loss of exports to our biggest and closest market – the EU – as a result of Brexit. Many people have questioned whether increased trade with the E7 can offset those losses.
One of the most sceptical voices was former civil servant Sir Martin Donnelly, who until last year ran the very same Department for International Trade of which Liam Fox is secretary.
Sir Martin recently told the BBC that the UK was “giving up a three-course meal, which is the depth and intensity of our trade relationships across the European Union and partners now, for the promise of a packet of crisps in the future if we manage to do trade deals outside the European Union which aren’t going to compensate for what we’re giving up”.
The Standard Chartered report says that of the G7 countries, only Germany is fulfilling its export potential to the E7, and only then through its reliance on its huge exports to a single country – China.
It is perhaps worth remembering that the UK exports more to the US than any other single country, while China is Germany’s number one export destination. Neither of these relationships are supported by a free trade agreement.
This illustrates a point often made by former trade minister and ex-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management Jim (Lord) O’Neill.
When it comes to trade, knowing which products and services foreign markets actually want – and getting them there – is more important than striking trade deals.
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