Mixed data highlight need to boost exports

9th April 2013

· Manufacturing output in February 2013: up 0.

8% on the month, down 1.4% on the year · UK trade deficit in goods and services was £3.6bn in February 2013, compared with a deficit of £2.5bn in January ·Value of UK exports fell by 1.1% between January and February 2013, while the value of imports rose by 1.7% in the same period   Commenting on the February 2013 UK trade figures, published today by the ONS, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:   -It is disappointing to see that the UK trade deficit worsened substantially in February, driven largely by falling goods exports and rising goods imports.   -However, our latest forward-looking economic survey shows near record growth in service sector export orders. This demonstrates that many of Britain's companies are growing and expanding into new markets across the globe. What's more, remittances from these service-sector orders may not come through into the statistics for some time.   -The British businesses that I see are ambitious and hard working, and want to take their products and services overseas but the UK's overall export performance is still not where it could or should be. The latest trade deficit numbers highlight the need for international trade and commerce to be at the heart of both business and government thinking. If we are to win the 'global race' that the Prime Minister has described on numerous occasions, we need both a more enterprise-friendly environment and a large-scale increase in the resources and attention dedicated to supporting international trade.   Commenting on the UK trade and manufacturing output figures, David Kern, Chief Economist at the BCC, added:   -These economic figures send conflicting messages. The increase in manufacturing and total production output was stronger than expected, but the deterioration in the trade balance was larger than most analysts predicted. On the positive side, the output figures reinforce hopes that GDP will grow in the first quarter. But it is worrying that exports fell in February, while imports rose, and that there was a large fall in exports to non-EU countries.   -Despondency over the economy is unjustified. Although we are facing difficult circumstances, our short-term economic performance remains stronger than that of the eurozone. At the same time, the government should be more forceful in boosting exports, and do more to support companies seeking to break into new markets.

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