Global opportunities for SMEs

Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, EU markets are likely to remain attractive to UK companies. A long trading history, strong relationships and accessibility often make them the first choice for companies looking to expand. As part of a growth strategy, though, other regions can offer an equally compelling proposition. Here’s just four markets you may want to consider.

1 Australia

As an English-speaking nation, with a highly educated workforce and more than a million British citizens1, Australia holds great appeal for UK businesses.

With the 13th largest economy in the world, Australia has enjoyed 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth, driven by mining, healthcare and financial services. Its population of nearly 25 million enjoys a GDP per capita that places it among the world's wealthiest2.

The country’s top five imports are motor vehicles, fuel, telecom equipment, computers and medicines. In 2017, UK firms exported around £8.6bn worth of goods and services to Australia, with vehicles, medicines, pharmaceuticals and alcoholic drinks making up the largest part of that total3.

Those import sectors reflect a country with a growing healthcare spend and a major role in biotech. There's also a strong appetite for niche and premium food and drink.

As a result of significant regional investment, opportunities may arise for UK expertise in rail and road infrastructure, city development and digital products, including e-commerce, e-publishing, payment technologies, cyber security and fintech4.

2 India

Steady economic reforms and the deliberate removal of trade barriers have made India a more attractive and open market in which to do business.

Bilateral economic ties with the UK are dynamic and wide-ranging. In 2016, bilateral trade with the UK was worth £15.4bn5.

With GDP growth expected to be 7.3 per cent in 2019, India will remain one of the fastest growing economies globally6. The country is actually predicted to be the world’s third largest economy by 2030. This makes the world’s second most populous nation an extremely attractive market5.

In addition, the 1.3 billion-strong nation currently has the third greatest purchasing power parity in the world, while rising personal incomes mean growing consumer demand7. As a country undergoing widescale urbanisation, India is seeing a young, large and English-speaking workforce spreading through its 450+ cities.

India's telecommunications, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors are burgeoning, and the country has identified specific areas for economic development that include finance, healthcare, education, advanced engineering, energy development and infrastructure.

There is potential for UK companies in sectors such as food and drink, where increased disposable income, rising urbanisation, changing lifestyles and changes in taste and preference of the Indian consumers have an impact on demand.

As public and private sector investment in India’s healthcare expands, there are opportunities in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Machinery is the UK’s top export to India, and demand for manufacturing equipment, especially robotic, is likely to rise as India’s industry becomes more sophisticated8.

3 Singapore

Singapore is one of the UK's largest Asian trading partners, accounting for half of UK exports to ASEAN (£7.2bn in 2016)9.

A major financial hub in the Asia Pacific region, and the world’s busiest cargo seaport, Singapore has a reputation as one of the world’s most advanced economies.

In 2017, Singapore was ranked as the world’s second most open economy by the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, as well as the world’s second most pro-business regime by the World Bank’s Doing Business report10.

Today, the Singapore economy is one of the most stable in the world, with no foreign debt, high government revenue and a consistently positive surplus. Its residents enjoy a per capita income of around US$53,000, higher than that of most developed countries (including the UK)11.

ASEAN's most developed economy, the country has 22 free trade agreements, with more in the pipeline, including the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA)12. More than 50,000 UK residents live there, and more than 50 per cent of the world's population is within a 6-hour flight13.

Singapore's SmartNation project aims to crowd-source solutions that can revolutionise living, transport and healthcare14. And the creative industries are being fostered through government initiatives and projects such as the National Design Centre – excellent prospects for UK expertise.

Emerging industries that are making significant contributions to Singapore’s economy include medical technology, aerospace engineering, clean energy, healthcare and content development.

4 Canada

Canada’s prosperity is built upon openness to international trade and investment. A highly developed economy, the country has a wealth of natural resources and an important auto industry export sector. With a population of more than 36 million and a per capita GDP of US$48,100, Canada also recorded healthy GDP growth of 3 per cent in 201715.

Canada, through its trade agreement with the US and Mexico, is also a gateway to a market of nearly 500 million people, utilising well-tested supply chains and profitable trade partnerships. Canada, Mexico and the United States generate more than US$20trn in trade each year – a quarter of the global economy’s turnover.

This North America corridor is a region of dynamic opportunities, with growth potential for all sectors.

The country acknowledges the importance of higher education for a better-performing economy, borne out by its skilled workforce. It also provides a very competitive R&D environment.

The UK is by far Canada’s most important commercial partner in Europe, and the fifth largest globally, with two-way merchandise trade in 2017 reaching £15.5bn, the vast majority of which moved through UK ports16.

The UK is also an important source of direct foreign investment for Canada, ranking fourth after the United States, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and there are more than 700 UK firms with a presence in Canada.

Canada and the UK also have strong partnerships in science, technology and innovation, and there are many links between Canadian and UK researchers, universities, funding agencies, commercialisation groups and companies.

The research priorities of both countries have much in common. They both tend to concentrate resources in large, collaborative, interdisciplinary programmes that meet global societal and economic challenges, such as ageing, climate change, science/green technologies, energy and food and water security. Other priority areas for collaboration include medical research, aerospace and defence, ocean technologies and nanotechnology.


Value of UK goods and services exports to Australia In 2017


Value of UK exports to Singapore in 2016


India's projected GDP growth in 2019


Canada's GDP growth in 2017

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