Trade on target?

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The latest trade statistics are starting to look more positive, but how much does that tell us about how the UK's exports are doing?


The value of the UK’s goods exports in June was not great, posting a fall for the first time in four months, according to the latest foreign trade report. Yet data for the three months to June could be more insightful: exports rose to their highest in six quarters, suggesting an improvement in the underlying trend.

Goods exports to both European and non-EU markets have improved, with notable growth in goods sales to France, China and the US. Concerns about manufacturers being hammered by a stronger Sterling and flat Eurozone demand may be less significant than thought as the sector saw the value of overseas sales rise by 2.7% over the quarter.

Despite the recent uptick, the government’s goal of doubling annual exports to £1 trillion by 2020 will be a struggle. Not least because past progress has been poor, but also, as the Bank of England flagged yesterday that while global growth is expected to pick up slightly, particularly in the eurozone, the risks are skewed to the downside because of uncertainty about both the eurozone and prospects in emerging markets.

While a value-based export target gives Minsters and officials a point of focus for policy action, it doesn't give us the full picture - especially in an environment of weak trade growth (as discussed by George last month). Other (dare we say better...) ways to gauge how manufactured exports are faring could include on the UK maintaining its share of world exports at 3%, increasing the share of exports to emerging and high growth countries to 25% by 2020, or even reducing the current account deficit.

Here's how all four measures look with the most data on our actual performance. 




Chief Economist

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