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Call for new plan to boost trade to North America after stats reveal ‘over-reliance’ on EU exports

Welsh Conservatives have called on the Welsh Labour Government to develop a new strategy to boost Welsh exports to North America. The calls come as new Welsh Government statistics revealed a sharp decline in exports to the region since figures were first collected in 2012.

Shadow Education Secretary, Russell George, raised the figures during Economy Questions this afternoon, highlighting an ‘over-reliance’ on Welsh exports to the European Union.

For the United Kingdom as a whole, just under a half of all exports go to EU nations (49.4%), but that figure is significantly higher in Wales. For the 12 months up to and including September 2016, exports to the EU accounted for 67.7% of the all exports; compared to just 44.6% during 2012.

Over the same period, exports to North America declined starkly – from 26.8% of all Welsh exports in 2012, to just 15.4% during the year to date.

There is some good news in the figures, and Mr George, welcomed a modest rise (1.6%) in the volume of all exports during the year to date: from £8,829,000,000 in the first three quarters of 2015, to £8,976,000,000.

Mr George said that the figures suggested a welcome resilience in the Welsh economy, but urged the Welsh Labour Government to make developing trade with North America a top priority for 2017.

He said:

“In recent years the First Minister has made a number of high profile trade missions to North America, and yet trade with the region has fallen dramatically since 2012.

“It’s clear that the Labour Government’s approach is failing, and the over-reliance of the Welsh economy on exports to the EU is becoming a significant problem at a time when we have an opportunity to broaden the markets to whom we export.

“Whilst the EU accounts for around 49% of all UK exports, more than two-thirds of all Welsh exports are to Europe which suggests a wider issue with the Welsh Government’s economic approach.

“The Welsh Government’s new economic strategy must include a new plan to boost trade with North America, and the Cabinet Secretary should act on the President-elect’s willingness to trade with the UK to get Wales to the front of the queue.”

The dataset can be viewed in full via this link: https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Business-Economy-and-Labour-Market/Businesses/Exports/welshexports-by-quarter-destination