New figures reinforce North East's reputation as a leader of exports

At the beginning of Export Week, a new report has shown the region to be among the top in the UK for exports growth

John Giles/PA Wire Containers at Teesport
Containers at Teesport

New figures have confirmed the region remains ahead of the game when it comes to breaking into overseas markets.

A quarterly confidence tracker report from the British Chamber of Commerce and DHL Express - released to mark the start of Export Week - has revealed that year-on-year, the North East has seen a 10.28% increase in total volume of export documents.

This was the third largest rise seen in England, coming just behind West Midlands (10.37%). And while the East Midlands saw the greatest increase at 20.50%, several areas of the UK, including the North West, Wales and Scotland, actually saw export volumes decrease during the period.

The survey, which has been running since 2006, looked at more than 2,300 exporting firms.

It also found that 46% of manufacturers experienced increased export orders in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 36% in the final quarter of 2014. The proportion of service firms recording increased export sales, meanwhile, remained steady at 33%.

Almost half of the exporting manufacturers (44%) increased their labour force in the first three months of this year.

This growth level has been achieved in the face of increasing pressure from higher exchange rates, in particular the rising pound against the euro, which reached a seven-year high in early March 2015.

The figures come on the back of recent ONS statistics that showed manufacturing jobs increased by 15% on the previous quarter.

Jonathan Walker, head of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce said: “Exporting is vital to the UK economy and plays a vital role in creating jobs, boosting skills and helping to reduce the trade deficit.

“The North East has a great reputation for export, and recently confidence only seems to be increasing.

“As the region’s largest membership association we aim to help our members’ grow their businesses and the results of our most recent Quarterly Economic Survey shows a major upturn in export sales, which goes in line with the positive trend we have seen for the last two years.

“These figures are showing things are certainly moving in the right direction and we’re looking forward to working with North East businesses, helping them become more innovative, profitable and increasing their level of growth.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Manufacturers are turning to export markets abroad to fuel their growth ambitions as the slowdown in domestic growth persists.

“Encouragingly, the increase in export sales and orders has come about in spite of the rise in the pound against the euro over recent months - a credit to the strength and expertise of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

“Despite these positive figures, real progress towards eliminating the UK’s trade deficit remains elusive. At the heart of the new government’s agenda must be ambitious plans to improve the UK’s trade performance – we have to develop a pipeline of new exporters and help existing exporters break into new markets.

“Only then will the UK regain its position as a trading powerhouse and unlock future economic growth.”

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