SME confidence in international trade conditions across the last quarter of 2013 was the highest level on record with more businesses expecting growth in 2014.
The findings – reported in the Western Union Business Solutions International Trade Monitor – the quarterly economic confidence survey of over 650 UK SMEs engaged in international trade – reveal that confidence has risen to 82% from 68% a year ago.
The report said confidence in future conditions is also higher with 72% of participants believing that international trade will improve over the next 12 months – a 19-point rise on a year ago.
The survey’s findings were unveiled at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Trade & Investment at the House of Commons. The Institute of Export and Western Union are part of the group.
The session comprised a debate chaired by The Times Deputy Business Editor Andrew Clark with panellists Kerry Agiasotis, Global MD of Western Union Business Solutions, Margot James MP, David Godfrey, Chief Executive of UK Export Finance and architect Keith Williams.
IOE Director General Lesley Batchelor, who attended the event, said: “When reviewing the survey findings, it’s very encouraging to see that 74% of SMEs surveyed expect growth in their international activity in the next 6-12 months, up 10 percentage points from Q3 2013.
“Additionally, 36% of those not currently trading with emerging markets plan to expand into those markets in the next 6-12 months, 11 points up on Q3 2013 and seven points above the previous high. SMEs in manufacturing are more likely to be planning such expansion than those in retail (42% vs. 25%).”
Kerry Agiasotis, Global Managing Director, Western Union Business Solutions, added: “SME confidence in the UK recovery remains on track. 2013 ended with a string of positive economic data; what we are seeing now is faith in the strength of the British economy translating into action as more small and medium-sized businesses look to increase investment in their companies.”
The survey, launched in 2010, also reported that strong international expectations were complicated by fall in export activity. There had also been a modest dip in exports to major markets.
The increasingly positive outlook for international trade corresponds with a growing belief in policy effectiveness. 51% of respondents indicated that the UK Government’s policies on international trade are effective, the highest number on record and the first time it has broken the 50% mark.
Fears about the overall health of the global economy, however, continue, with over 72% of SMEs naming it a source of anxiety. Worries about euro zone instability rose a significant 18 percentage points in the final quarter of 2013, with half of SMEs once again claiming it to be a concern (52%). The continuing crisis in the euro zone remains a factor that negatively affects 42% of businesses.
For a copy of the full survey findings visit https://business.westernunion.com/en-gb/