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UK Exports

Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2012

17. What steps he is taking to encourage the use of the UK's embassies and high commissions to support the promotion of UK exports. (96706)

Supporting UK firms is at the heart of our diplomacy. Our missions overseas are taking a leading role in campaigns to win new business. We have a dynamic Trade Minister in my noble Friend Lord Green and a highly focused prosperity directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We are determined to play our part in driving up British exports.

Under the previous Government, the number of embassies we had overseas was reduced and exports flatlined as a proportion of gross domestic product, whereas in Germany exports have increased as a proportion of GDP—up to 50% now. What steps are the Government taking to open more embassies to help firms like Herbert Engineering in South West Norfolk, which plans to export 65% of all its goods next year to countries as far away as China and Dubai?

My hon. Friend is spot on. Our exports in 2011 were up 10.7%, while our trade deficit fell from £36.7 billion in 2010 to £28 billion in 2011. It is, of course, our intention to get into surplus. That is one reason why we are opening new missions around the world, including five in Africa. I am glad that my hon. Friend highlighted the excellent engineering business, R J Herbert Engineering, which is a superb example of a medium-sized engineering company succeeding in tough export markets.