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Surge in service exports sees UK become world’s fourth largest exporter


Data published by the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reveals the UK as the world’s fourth-largest exporter following a boom in service exports.  The results, which see the UK up three places from 2021, have been attributed to a bumper year of services exports worth a record £470bn.  Ranking fourth globally places the UK behind only China, the US and Germany, having overtaken France, the Netherlands and Japan. 

The increase in service exports accountable for the UK’s rise on the world stage has been attributed to a boom in professional services exports.  In particular, research, consulting and technical services have added £185bn to the UK’s total output over 2023.  Travel service exports saw a considerable increase over the previous year, together with those from the telecoms and technology sectors. 

Research undertaken by the Resolution Foundation earlier this year revealed that London accounted for the majority of the UK’s service export output.  Whilst service exports out of London grew by 47 percent between 2016 and 2021, exports from the UK’s second largest service-exporting city, Manchester, grew by 11 percent over the same period.  Conversely, though, the same research demonstrates that the share of tradeable services has grown across Britain’s 12 ‘core cities’, demonstrating the potential that these areas have to increase their share of the UK’s total output.  

Services trade has been earmarked by the government as a key focus for 2024, with agreements on services at the forefront of ongoing negotiations with Switzerland and Turkey among others. 

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