UK becomes world’s fourth largest exporter as services boom

Wed 10 Apr 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News
Uk Recovery

An increase in services trade has lifted the UK into the position of the world’s fourth largest exporter, according to new data published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

‘Punching above its weight’

As reported by City AM, a boom in exports of professional services has played a major role in the increase, with the value of research, consulting and technical and trade services contributing £185bn to the numbers.

The UK ranked seventh in 2021, according to UNCTAD’s figures, and its progress up the rankings was welcomed by business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch.

She said:

“These new figures show how the UK is punching above its weight on trade, and is on track to reach our ambition of exporting a trillion pounds of goods and services a year by 2030.

“The appetite for world-class UK produce continues to grow and this government will keep supporting our brilliant businesses, helping to create more jobs, pay higher wages and grow the economy.”

Travel services were also among those whose value increased in the latest figures, with exports hitting £59bn, making the UK the world’s third-largest exporter in the sector in 2023.

Telecoms and computer services exports also hit £40bn.

London looming

A report from the Resolution Foundation published earlier this year suggested that most of the expansion in the UK’s services sector is happening in the capital.

London is responsible for nearly half of the UK’s services exports, and the concentration of services activity in the country is “increasingly concentrated in London”, the report states. Between 1997 and 2023, it adds, services have almost doubled as a percentage of the UK’s exports, from 30% to 56%.

Resolution Foundation economist Emily Fry said that “Britain needs to build up, rather than talk down, services as a route to future economic prosperity. Tradable services aren’t just about banking, and should not be something that just happens in the capital.”

“We have a wide range of strengths in services – from world class universities, to accountants and entertainment industries – and getting more of our major cities to sell this to the world would boost both local living standards and national economic growth.”

Harnessing the UK’s strength in services to develop its regions and cities beyond London is a major theme of the Institute of Export and International Trade’s (IOE&IT’s) ‘Global horizons’ report’, published last year.

You can read that report here.