Asian countries fastest growing UK export partners

Posted on 24 Apr 2018 by Jonny Williamson

The top five fastest growing UK export partners are dominated by countries in Asia Pacific, new research has revealed.

Exports to Switzerland, China, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and South Korea were worth US$71bn last year.

Projected growth could see these markets generate an additional US$2.1bn a year for UK exports.

The research was commissioned by Wyelands Bank to better understand the role of imports and exports in the UK economy, and was prepared in collaboration with Global Trade Review, which provided the data.

Rank (fastest growing)


Growth rate a year to 2021 

Value in 2017 (US$)

Project growth (value US$)












Saudi Arabia 





Hong Kong 





South Korea 







Regional growth from Asia Pac and South America

Regionally, Europe remains the UK’s biggest trading partner for exports with a 46.3% share.

North America is next with 17.2%, while Asia Pacific (7%), Sub-Saharan Africa (5.4%), Mena (1.8%) and South America (1.2%) follow.

However, the fastest growing market is Asia Pacific, where exports are expected to grow at 3% a year to 2021.

South America, where UK exports are expected to grow by around 0.5% annually until 2021, is the second fastest growth region.

SMEs driving growth

The analysis also shows that more than twice the number of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) trade internationally than government figures estimate.

Some 30% of SMEs trade internationally against just 12.9% according to a government survey in 2016.

Among SMEs, the sectors with the highest international turnovers are professional and business services at 26% and manufacturing at 24%.

In addition, 10% of retail and wholesale SMEs have international turnovers, as well as 9% of ICT SMEs.

UK is one of the most open economies

Overall, the UK economy is highly dependent on trade, accounting for 58% of GDP. This makes the UK economy one of the most open in the G20, and more open than China, America and Japan.

In 2016, the UK exported goods worth US$433.5bn and imported goods worth US$678.1bn.

The research also shows that three key sectors will dominate UK trade in goods, when assessed by the value of exports:

  • Automotives at US$55bn now and expected to grow at 1.7% a year to 2021
  • Pharmaceuticals at US$33bn now and expected to grow by 0.8% a year to 2021
  • Aerospace at $21.5bn now and expected to grow by 3.7% a year to 2021

Are you one of the UK’s leading manufacturing exporters?

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The Manufacturer MX Awards is the largest annual celebration in the industry’s calendar, attracting more than 1,000 attendees.

However, the awards aren’t just about the ceremony itself. They are the culmination of a rigorous assessment programme designed to provide valuable business improvement advice and feedback from an expert panel of judges.

Companies and indivuidals all of sectors and sizes are eligible to enter and there is a category to suit every achievement. It is free to enter and nominations must be submitted by 22 June 2018.

The awards ceremony takes place in Liverpool on 15 November 2018, as part of Digital Manufacturing Week.

To enter, or for more information, please visit: