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Demand for British goods and services hits new high

11 July 2018

Demand for British goods and services hits new highThe latest Government trade figures show that exports reached a record high of £620 billion in the year to May 2018.

UK exports to the world rose by £30 billion - an increase of 5.2% compared to the same time last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Exports in the service sector were up 3.1% to a record high of £279 billion; goods exports rose by 6.9% to £341 billion.

ONS figures also show that UK exports grew faster to Canada (up 12.7%), India (31.8%) and China (15.3%) than to the EU (10%). Non-EU countries remain the main destination for UK services, making up 60.4% of all services exports.

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: "There is huge potential in this country to raise our game on trade. Two-thirds of IoD members already export, showing we can create the products and services the world wants, and if we could only slightly increase the proportion of firms overall who trade the gains could be enormous.

"The good news is that there are steps we can be taking now to encourage exporters to increase sales, and help more companies take that first leap into international markets."

However, a new study by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has concluded that more needs to be done to encourage the 26% of UK small businesses that currently do not trade overseas. Its findings show that almost half (46%) of UK SMEs say more information and support would encourage them to participate in international trade.

The ACCA report, Growing Globally, has identified the most significant barriers preventing UK SMEs from participating in international trade. These are: knowledge and understanding of foreign regulations (45%) and foreign customs duties/tariffs (30%). Identifying customers in international markets (26%) and foreign exchange (26%) also represent significant challenges for small businesses.

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"Internationalisation can potentially bring a range of growth benefits for both a small business and the broader economy, whilst also driving productivity," said Ben Baruch, head of SME policy at ACCA. "However, it is clear that more can be done to support UK small business, with more than a quarter not participating at all in international trade, and only two-thirds (69%) intending to increase their international trade activities in the coming years - a low percentage compared to other countries like Ireland (84%), Malaysia (77%) and Singapore (76%)."

The ACCA report offers guidance to SMEs on ways to expand their international capability, including embracing cloud technologies, developing the scalability of the finance function, creating a business strategy with global ambitions and identifying relevant resources.

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