Region's China Exports Soar as Rest of UK Fails to Keep Pace; Jaguar Land Rover Helps Boost Sales to Far East from West Midlands with More Growth Predicted

Article excerpt

Byline: Graeme Brown Head of Business

THE West Midlands' export surplus with China grew threefold last year as the region raced to outpace the rest of the country in sales to foreign shores.

The region sold PS1.74 billion more goods to the Far Eastern superpower than it imported, as Jaguar Land Rover drove foreign sales to previously inconceivable levels.

Total exports from the West Midlands rose by 18.4 per cent in a year, fuelled by emerging markets, but also boosted by the first rise in European income for several years.

More than a third of the UK's exports to China were from the West Midlands last year - sending out more than PS4 billion worth of goods while importing PS2.3 billion.

That came as national exports overall struggled with income across England dropping for the third year running.

Paul Noon UKTI regional director for the West Midlands said he expected income from the Far East to continue to increase in 2014, with traditional manufacturing areas leading the way in export growth.

Mr Noon said: "I think the growth in exports that we have seen over the last two years will continue to come.

"I think JLR accounts for about half of the growth. In terms of the rest, it is a good question, but in general there has been three regions with growth - us, the East Midlands and the South West - while the rest of the UK has been sluggish.

"I think it is because there is more manufacturing in these regions - we make quality products and Brand Britain is doing particularly well."

The PS4 billion of exports to China last year rose from PS2.7 billion in 2012 and PS1.9 billion in 2011, sending last year's export surplus of PS534.8 million soaring.

Across that time, total exports have risen to PS27 billion, up from PS22.8 billion last year and PS21.3 billion in 2011.

In the same period, exports from the nine English regions in total have shrunk from PS223.4 billion to PS220.2 billion.

Mr Noon said he did not expect to replicate the 18 per cent growth in total exports, but thinks 2014 export growth will be in double figures for the West Midlands. However, with a 13.4 per cent overall rise in the fourth quarter of last year alone - up to PS7.5 billion - the rise shows no sign of abating.

The region imported a total of PS33.3 billion worth of goods and exported PS30 billion in 2013, but Mr Noon is predicting the region will be in export surplus by 2016.

Precision stampings firm Brandauer is among the region's manufacturers to see exports to China soar in recent years.

The firm supplies parts for kettles to the Far East and has seen income from that part of the world rise by about 15 per cent in the last three years, to PS2 million out of a total PS7 million turnover.

Sales and marketing director Rowan Crozier said that figure would soar again in 2014 after it recently won another export order.

He said: "We have probably had about 15 per cent growth in three years. It has basically happened alongside our customers.

"We supplied our customer base in the UK and Europe and as they have 'off-shored' they have taken us with them.

"That number is set to grow by another half a million pounds in the next 12 months as we will be supplying to a new contractor in China. …