Beyond Europe: Global Opportunities for the Mid-Market

While the UK and Europe have a long history of bilateral trade, British mid-market firms may be missing out by overlooking growth opportunities in the emerging markets of ASEAN, Mexico and beyond.

International expansion is an attractive prospect for companies on the hunt for their next big growth opportunity. For mid-market firms treading the line between financial stability and the continuous pressure from stakeholders to grow, globalisation strategies cannot exist as half-measures.

While Europe will remain a key fixture of globalisation strategies across the world, UK-based firms are now looking to the emerging markets of Latin America, Asia and beyond to capture significant growth. Here are four markets worth considering.

1. Vietnam

Home to around 90 million consumers, the Vietnamese market is undergoing a period of accelerated liberalisation, with free trade agreements and treaties in negotiation with EU and Pacific Rim economies.

Underlining this increasing presence within the global market, the UKTI expects Vietnam's import demand to rise by about 250 per cent for the decade up to 2020.1

Information and communications technology (ICT) is a trade highlight; the sector has enjoyed average growth of 20-25 per cent in recent years, contributing around 7 per cent to the national GDP,1 Vietnam also boasts one of the world's fastest growing retail sectors, bolstered by a young consumer population with increasing disposable income.2 National retail sales are expected to grow by 6.5 per cent per year by 2018, worth an estimated US$122 billion.3

The nation's hosting of the 2019 Asian Games, together with mass transit developments in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City4 may present British companies with further inroads to Vietnam.

2. Mexico

Projected to be the world's fifth largest economy by 2050,5 Mexico has signed more trade agreements than any other nation, giving it potential access to 60 per cent of global GDP.6

Mexico offers many opportunities to UK firms, such as free trade to the US and Canada under NAFTA, affordable labour and access to a skilled workforce. Ongoing infrastructure projects worth US$300 billion will strengthen the nation's global trade links up to 2018.

Manufacturing is Mexico's most prominent growth area, accounting for 16.7 per cent of GDP, followed by retail and sales at 15.4 per cent. Some 300 foreign firms are active within the Mexican aviation industry alone, underlining the nation's receptiveness to international business.

Bilateral trade between the UK and Mexico was worth US$32 billion in 2014, and British products continue to enjoy a strong presence in the Mexican market; performing well across machinery, transport, pharmaceuticals, and financial services.

3. South Korea

With a focus on world class electronic goods and a world-leading 4G infrastructure, the high growth market of South Korea is a prime target for UK firms active within both the ICT and consumer technology industries.

The nation's increasingly wealthy consumer base of over 50 million residents is strongly receptive to both British culture and produce, across fashion, cosmetics, food and drink and other product types.8

While this receptiveness to inward trade bodes well for UK business, South Korea continually takes steps to become one of the world's top business-friendly economies. Foreign firms can find additional support within several Free Economic Zones, such as eased regulations, tax incentives and cash grants.9

It not uncommon for British brands to utilise South Korea as a stepping stone to ASEAN markets, by working alongside domestic partners and using their market expertise to establish a foothold.8

4. Bangladesh

British goods and brands are broadly recognised and deemed reliable in Bangladesh. This sentiment is supported by the Bangladeshi government's Vision 2021 reforms, which aim to achieve new economic growth by investing in infrastructure, skills and trade.10

This appetite for growth has resulted in new opportunities for UK firms, with around 100 prolific brands operating within Bangladesh today. English is widely spoken while conducting business, which helps facilitate negotiations with international companies.

The UK currently exports a high volume of goods to Bangladesh each year, worth £207 million in 2014. Key exports that year included machinery, electrical components, steel and iron. Demand for these goods continues today.11

Electricity demand is estimated to outstrip supply across Bangladesh this year, presenting new opportunities for British companies in energy construction, machinery, planning and consultancy.

Bangladeshi projects across environmental reform, water supply, ICT automation, pharmaceuticals and biotech also present potential inroads to UK firms.

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