UK’s trade deficit grows to £3 billion

A sharp drop in UK exports to non-EU countries has led to a surprise widening of the trade in goods and services deficit to £3 billion in March, official statistics show.

A sharp drop in UK exports to non-EU countries has led to a surprise widening of the trade in goods and services deficit to £3 billion in March, official statistics show.
 
While the deficit in the trade of goods with EU countries narrowed to £3.2 billion in March, with non-EU countries it grew to £4.5 billion in the same month, compared with a deficit of £2.8 billion in February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports.

In UK and EU trade, exports rose by £1.2 billion and imports rose by £200 million. This compared well with UK and non-EU trade where exports fell by £1.3 billion, but imports rose by £400 million.

In January, Barclays bank’s head of trade warned the UK's SMEs that they were ‘missing opportunities’ in faster growing developing countries because they were too focused on Europe.

Overall, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was £3 billion in March, compared with a deficit of £2.7 billion in February. The volume of goods exports fell by 3.4 per cent, excluding oil and erratic items, and the volume of goods imports fell by 0.4 per cent, compared with February.

The trade statistics come as the Confederation of British Industry backed a new trade and investment charter released this week by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The seven-point charter aims to explain the government’s plan to support international business in the UK, while championing UK business overseas and attracting investors to the country.

The UKTI says it will adopt a more ‘entrepreneurial approach’ and will actively seek out overseas investors, help UK companies expand into overseas markets and work more closely with key British companies. As part of the strategy, the agency plans to create a new private sector delivery partner and expand the Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP).

CBI international director Rhian Chilcott comments, ‘Boosting UK exports is crucial to growth so we welcome the new UKTI Strategy and the FCO’s Charter to focus on commercial and economic diplomacy. New initiatives to connect small and medium sized firms to trade finance, credit insurance and venture capital and to provide support networks and advice on exporting will be particularly helpful.’