Exports to Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa – the so-called BRICS – have jumped from £12.7bn in 2007, the last full year before the recession struck, to £27.1bn in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The BRICS now account for 5.56pc of total UK exports, compared with just 3.34pc in 2007.
The UK’s comparatively weak performance has been due to its legacy dependence on western demand, Mr Lyons said, with the US and Europe alone accounting for 64pc of total exports. Since the crisis struck in September 2008, imports by developed economies have “barely risen”, while those in the emerging nations have soared 23pc.
“Big British companies are investing. And that comes back to the country through profits and dividends,” he said. UK company dividends for last year are estimated to have hit a record £78bn, according to Capita Registrars.
David Cameron today arrives in India with a 100-strong trade delegation, hoping to drum up new opportunities for British companies. Tesco is pushing for a new deal to open supermarkets under its own brand, and the Prime Minister will make one final push to convince the Indian Air Force to switch an £11.5bn defence contract from French jets to the Eurofighter, made by a British, Spanish, German and Italian consortium.
The UK, which is the world’s sixth largest manufacturer, has been making progress in India, with exports rising from £2.95bn in 2007 to £4.67bn last year.
There is huge growth potential in the emerging markets for Britain. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, the UK would get an immediate £27bn boost if it increased its share of exports to BRICS countries from current levels to the UK’s global average of 3.7pc.
In its submission for next month’s Budget, the TUC called for a publicly-owned business bank to be set up with £40bn over four years to help to kick-start a new industrial revolution to tap into demand in emerging markets as they increasingly urbanise.
Mr Lyons had some sympathy with the TUC strategy. “There is a good case for the UK thinking of whether we should be reindustrialising parts of the economy,” he said.