The Exporters Rule for King

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Exporters Rule for King


Byline: by Lisa Buckingham EDITOR, FINANCIAL MAIL

WHAT a difference a year makes. In its quarterly inflation report in February 2010, the Bank of England effectively accused exporters of pocketing the gains to be had from a weaker pound instead of building market share overseas. The implication: they were profiteering rather than exporting.

This month's quarterly inflation report told a different story. 'Exports of goods have grown rapidly over the past year,' intoned the Bank, which added that surveys point to 'further healthy growth in the near term'. In the 12 months to the end of September 2010, exports rose by 7.5 per cent, 'significantly above their 2000-2007 average growth rate'. The final three months of last year saw 12.8 per cent growth.

And American and German recovery 'could generate faster growth in UK exports and a more rapid rebalancing of the economy'.

Of February 2010's shortsighted, profiteering factory bosses, there was no sign. Reading this, you could almost imagine the Bank Governor Mervyn King beaming benevolently like a proud headmaster.

In part, this turnround can be put down to what seems to be a genuine upward trend in goods exports in the intervening 12 months. Yes, imports have also risen, but that is hardly the exporters' fault. But there may well be a note of relief, too.

Sterling was ejected from Europe's Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 and plunged by nearly a third against the Continent's then anchor-currency, the German mark. A golden opportunity to rebuild export markets was, in effect, frittered away, with firms taking bigger profits rather than increasing market share.

One year ago, the Governor feared they might do the same again - undermining hopes of economic recovery: now even more urgent after the Office for National Statistics revised down its final quarter GDP estimate to minus 0. …

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