The UK has overtaken France as the world’s eighth largest manufacturer, while government backing has persuaded a major automotive manufacturer to invest £600 million in the production of a popular model, with the government setting aside a further £1 billion to spur investment in battery technology and attract new manufacturers.
Although the UK slipped behind France in the rankings in 2018, in 2021 – the last year for which global comparisons are available – UK output climbed ahead of France, according to a report by the manufacturers’ organisation, MAKE UK.
Within Europe, the UK remains behind Germany and Italy, which are the world’s fourth and seventh largest manufacturers, while China remains top of the rankings, with the US in second place and Japan in third.
2021 was the third year since 2002 in which the UK has come ahead of France and the government has set its sights on getting manufacturing output to represent 15% of total UK GDP, which means is could also overtake Italy.
The US is the largest export market for the UK for manufactured goods, with the Netherlands overtaking Germany to become the second largest market, though the export figures for the Netherlands could be artificially inflated by trade flows routed through Rotterdam for onward travel.
By sector, food and drink is the biggest exporter. It sent 12.4% of manufactured goods abroad in 2022; their value increased by almost a quarter compared with 2021.
The aerospace and transport sector achieved the largest growth in exports, with the northwest named the biggest manufacturing region by output.
The automotive industry, which is a critical export sector, continues to press the UK and EU to negotiate an easement on electric vehicle tariffs, with new rules of origin requirements set to be introduced from the start of next year, under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
The UK is ranked as the fifth largest combined exporter of goods and services, with the value export wins rising by 13.4% in 2022-23.
In 2023 export figures continue to impress, with total UK exports up by 19.5% over the year to June, while imports rose by 11.7%, with the total value of annual trade at a record high of just under £1.75 trillion.
Last month’s relatively strong 0.2% economic growth figures for the second quarter, were in large part attributed to the car industry, with the total number of cars built on course to be 100,000 units higher than 2022.
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