Asian countries fastest growing UK export partners

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)

Country 

Growth rate a year to 2021 

Value in 2017 (US$)

Project growth (value US$)

1

Switzerland 

3.6%

$23.6bn

$850m

2

China 

3.6%

$24.6bn

$886m

3

Saudi Arabia 

2.9%

$7.8bn

$226m

4

Hong Kong 

1.2%

$9.1bn

$109m

5

South Korea 

1.1%

$5.9bn

$65m

Total 

$71bn

$2.1bn 

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

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