Container ship exports

Source: Getty Images

The UK is underperforming compared to other large global economies, analysis shows

UK exports will continue to underperform in 2024, as a new study reveals the scale of challenges the new Labour government faces to boost international trade.

Recent predictions from the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade (CIOEIT) in partnership with Oxford Economics point to a slight contraction (–0.6% year on year or £5.6bn lower) in UK export growth for 2024.

This continues “the trend of persistently weak export performance observed in recent years” and “stands in stark contrast to advanced economy peers” such as the US and Japan (see below), which have shown stable or rising exports in past years, the CIOEIT said.

An expected contraction in exports in 2024 will be driven by a number of factors impacting international trade in the coming months, the institute added – including the effects of the new UK government and any incoming policy changes, as well as elections in key trade markets such as India, Turkey, and the US and how they will affect UK relations.

This is in addition to supply chain disruption linked to Brexit and geopolitical turbulence such as the Red Sea conflict.

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Source: CIOEIT

Exports of UK goods in particular have continued to underperform compared to services, with goods exports falling by 5.5% year on year, a £5.2bn decrease, in the first quarter of the year due to a decline in both EU and non-EU exports.

In Q1 2024, food and drink exports alone have hit their lowest levels in 15 years, barring a Covid-19 blip, according to recent FDF data.

Labour’s business and trade secretary Jonathan Reynolds met with UK business leaders this week to discuss his priorities and the role of DBT in delivering the party’s growth mission.

“With the Labour government now in place, strengthening cross-border trade and reinforcing our global supply chains must be a key priority,” said Marco Forgione, director general at CIOEIT.

“Our analysis shows that our goods exports, and the risks posed by supply chain disruption, are in need of urgent attention.

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Source: CIOEIT

“We believe this can be addressed in part by a comprehensive industrial and trade strategy. We need to empower businesses with the skills and long-term confidence to invest in international growth.”

Forgione added that a new Labour government meant “a fresh agenda to advance its vision for the future of the UK trade”.

“We need them to prioritise placing trusted trade at the heart of their business agenda in order to stimulate sustainable economic growth and support job creation across the whole of the nation.”