South Korea made the biggest single contribution to UK export growth last year taking £6.3bn of British imports, up 57pc from 2011. Mongolia, where Rio Tinto is the biggest foreign investor, the economy grew by 11pc last year and 17pc the year before. Japan, said Mr Hague, is “still the third largest economy in the world and has much more potential than has been so far realised for British exports.”
British trade bodies have called for the Government to offer more help to British exports. Last week HSBC published an eight-point “Manifesto for British Exporters” in which it called for the Government to issue targeted financial help for small firms to expand overseas.
Mr Hague said the Government was already investing. “The assistance is now there, that’s the message,” he said. “All our embassies overseas are charged with promoting British exports around the world. UKTI is doing an ever more effective job, the British Chambers of Commerce are creatively funding in the countries concerned.”
He said: “We are opening up to 20 new embassies and consulates and strengthening the commercial focus and staffing of many other existing embassies to make sure British businesses can make use of those connections all over the world.”
The IMF also warned that the eurozone was still under threat from the on-going debt crisis. It warned of a “plausible downside scenario” of a lost decade, with growth struggling to rise above 0.5pc as far as 2018. Even so, EEF has today said 85pc of its manufacturer members want to Britain to stay in the EU.
“Europe will always be a huge part of our exports market but it is a declining share,” said Mr Hague. “British companies have to do more all over the rest of the world and we are trying to assist with that, particularly in South East Asia and the Far East in general, Latin America, in Africa there are major opportunities. In all these areas we are strengthening our diplomatic presence.”