Emerging exports in emerging Europe
Many firms operating in the international marketplace might be familiar with the 'Emerging European' market, but for others it remains unexplored and misunderstood. As Director of UKTI London, it is clear to me that the opportunities in this dynamic growth market are more lucrative than ever.
For those less familiar with the marketplace, the area ranges from Austria to Slovakia and includes the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Romania. It has a combined population of over 100 million people, a combined GDP in excess of £1 trillion and annual average growth rates that in recent years have far exceeded most other European countries.
And UK progress in Emerging Europe is good. In the last ten years, British firms have doubled trade exports to Eastern and Central European countries. But there's still work to be done: we lag behind our rivals and continue to underestimate the sheer strength of demand for British products that is out there. Though we've doubled our exports to the region, this still only accounts for three per cent of their overall imports.
This is why UKTI aims to double trade with Central and Eastern Europe again by 2020 to £60bn. To achieve this, we are already ramping up support on the ground for British firms. We have established a British Business Centre in Poland, which opened last year, and business centres will also be opening in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia.
We are also increasing the number of trade missions in order to introduce more British businesses to potential buyers, particularly in the key sectors: energy, infrastructure, healthcare, technology, retail and financial services.
And the economic benefits of the region don't stop there. As well as the staggering size of the market, it also has low levels of public debt compared with the Eurozone average - still below 50 per cent compared with a Eurozone average approaching 90 per cent.
And the region is about to benefit from £124 billion of EU funding between 2014 and 2020, enhancing investment prospects in infrastructure, energy and innovation. Investment from elsewhere in the world is also following this trend, increasing by 75 per cent in 2011, reaching a total value of £28 billion.
So, one question remains: how can I get a slice of the action? The answer is simple: UKTI. As well as the business centres we are building, on a daily basis we provide businesses across the capital with the tools they need to succeed in markets such as this. Whether it's support at a trade show, providing market information, lists of suppliers or more advanced services like visit programmes or product launches in the Embassy, we're here to help. Our trade advisers are always on hand to help London firms grab all of the opportunities that are out there and thrive internationally.
Also, coming up between the 10 and 14 November, UKTI will be running its flagship roadshow 'Export Week', a dedicated series of events and Workshops designed to get companies exporting.
In London, companies are invited to participate in events which will include getting top tips on how to optimise their website and make the most of exporting online, as well as the biggest event, 'Explore Export', where specialist UKTI officers, who will have travelled from more than 60 countries, including from Emerging Europe, will offer one-to-one expert trade advice.
Every day we meet companies who see themselves as too small to make the most of what UKTI can offer businesses wanting to export, but it's not true. We want companies of all sizes to succeed - whether in Emerging Europe or in any of the 111 countries that UKTI operates in. The schemes and events we offer could provide you with a robust export plan. We can help to research markets, put you in touch with local Embassies and in-market experts, work locally to find business leads and give advice and tips on local business culture and etiquette.
I urge all companies who are considering taking the next step on their business journey to engage with the support available from UKTI, work with our specialist advisers and be one of 100,000 new exporters UKTI aims to create in the next five years.
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