Emerging Europe can appeal to new and experienced exporters

While troubles in the eurozone persist, significant export opportunities exist in lesser known European countries such as Poland, writes 
Suzan Uzel.

Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw, Poland

EUROPE is still a popular choice for exporters in Yorkshire, despite the difficulties faced by the eurozone, whose economy contracted in the second and third quarters of last year.

Mark Robson, UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI) international trade director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The reasons are obvious; whilst they may not be growing fast the countries in Europe are large, wealthy and nearby.”

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And, he said, there are opportunities for novice and experienced exporters alike in ‘emerging Europe’, broadly consisting of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and representing a combined market of more than 100 million people where English is an accepted business language.

Yorkshire and the Humber exports to the European Union totalled £2,050m in the third quarter of 2012, with those to Eastern Europe, excluding the EU, reaching £67m and those to Western Europe, also excluding the EU, at £224m.

To put this in context, total exports from Yorkshire and the Humber reached nearly £4bn in the third quarter, up from £3.7bn in the previous three months. Overall, though provisional data shows exports to these regions from the Yorkshire area were down in 2012, compared to 2011, Europe is still the region’s largest export market.

Mr Robson said: “If you look beyond the negative forecasts and crisis media stories into some of the lesser known corners of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), or ‘emerging Europe’, then you will discover that our [the UK’s] bilateral trade has grown steadily in recent years, while our exports of goods and services to the region have more than doubled over the past decade.”

The UK’s bilateral trade with CEE was worth more than £42bn in 2011, with UK exports reaching £16bn.

He added: “In Austria, for example, advanced engineering, chemicals, energy, healthcare, and rail are all emerging sectors, while in Bulgaria and Croatia ports and the environment are key areas. There are also region-wide opportunities linked to food and drink, education and training, tourism and lifestyle, underlining that although the individual countries have their own social and cultural identities they are broadly striving for the same goal as developed economies that can compete globally.”

Poland, for example, the largest country in the CEE region, has grown consistently over the last 20 years. With the largest consumer market in the new EU member states and significant EU funding, worth 67bn euros between 2007 and 2013, Poland offers opportunities in energy, infrastructure, financial services, retail, healthcare and life sciences and defence and security. Mr Robson said Poland “now commands global respect”, while the most recent wave of accession countries, Romania and Bulgaria, are catching up fast.

“There will inevitably be challenges with the pace of growth, debt levels and strategic development, but the region as a whole offers significant and sustainable growth opportunities. And that is unlikely to change as global business focus continues to shift from West to East. The importance of Central and Eastern Europe as a stepping stone to other Eastern markets beyond the EU should also be underlined.”

For Keighley-based Designer Yarns, which distributes high-quality hand-knitting yarns, Europe is a key market. With 22 staff in the UK, Designer Yarns has a £6m turnover, with £7m expected this year. It opened a European subsidiary, Designer Yarns Deutschland, in Cologne in 2009.

David Watt, MD of the company, which has been selling into Europe for more than a decade, said: “We now have a team of six office and warehouse staff there, supporting six field sales representatives, selling in 10 European countries, in particular Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Benelux and France. Increasingly though, countries in the east such as Poland and Ukraine are becoming interested in our products.”

He added: “Our target in the next 12 months is to recruit four more sales people, working out of our Cologne office and over the next three years to double our 2m euro turnover there. It won’t be easy but we are on track.”

• This feature marks the last in a special series, run by the Yorkshire Post in partnership with Heathrow, highlighting global trade opportunities for Yorkshire firms.

UK in danger of losing its trade advantage

Colin Matthews
Chief Executive of Heathrow

Part of the UK’s competitive advantage is rooted in it having had the world’s largest port or airport for the past 350 years.

Consequently, we have become the centre of global service industries like insurance, law and finance. Some 350 years of history will end sometime in the next decade when Heathrow, unable to add more flights, is overtaken by Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt as the busiest airport for international passengers. Worse still, Heathrow is doing particularly badly on the routes to new emerging markets so important for growth. Without new hub capacity, we will be handing our trade advantage directly to our European rivals.

Heathrow offers 67 daily flights to Europe.

Heathrow currently offers flights to eight destinations
in Europe not served by any other UK airport.

nCurrently there are six destinations in Europe
served daily from other European hubs but not
served daily from
Heathrow.