Hull welcomes world of opportunity

Can you benefit as Hull’s global trading links are opening up opportunities around the world?

The old Chinese proverb “may you live in interesting times” was meant more as a curse than a blessing.

The implication was “interesting” meant difficult or dangerous, while boring times were more likely to be uneventful and prosperous.

It’s fair to say that we now live in very interesting times. Among austerity, failing financial institutions, Euro Zone meltdowns, Brexit and the arrival of President Trump, the old cosy certainties of the post-war western world seem to have been torn up and cast aside.

But is everything as gloomy as some social commentators would have us believe? Since the Brexit referendum vote last year the world hasn’t ended and, indeed, many economic indicators have remained steadfastly upbeat. The well-worn phrase that things are flourishing “despite Brexit” has become a bit of an embarrassing cliché.

The creation of 2,565 new businesses in the East Riding in 2016, according to Companies House and the Office of National Statistics, would suggest a robust confidence in the region’s economy. And as the UK continues to reshape its role in the post-Brexit world, it has presented many of Hull and East Yorkshire’s businesses with unexpected opportunities.

The shock election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States catapulted the UK from the “back of the queue” under Barack Obama to the front in the rush to secure a post-Brexit trade deal. Could such huge global forces and national-level negotiations benefit Hull? It’s highly possible, if East Yorkshire’s businesses are ready to step up and grasp the opportunity.

Figures this year show that Hull is the only UK city that sells more exports to the USA than to the EU. A report by independent think tank Centre for Cities said that 46 per cent of Hull’s exports are sent to the USA, compared to an average of 15 per cent from other UK cities. Of Hull’s other exports, 29 per cent find their way to Europe while a further two per cent is shipped to China.

The thriving pharmaceutical and medical industries based in Hull are held up as responsible for the healthy state of exports to the US. Now it is hoped that other East Riding firms will follow those established trade routes and look west to see what else could be achieved by local companies in the land of opportunity.

But Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said that it was also hugely important the Government strikes post-Brexit deals with all of the UK’s trading partners – with the EU remaining the most essential. She said:

“Securing the best possible EU trade deal will be critical for the prosperity of Hull and other cities, and should be the Government's top priority as we prepare to leave the single market and potentially the customs union. While it's right to be ambitious about increasing exports to countries such as the US and China, the outcome of EU trade negotiations will have a much bigger impact on places and people up and down the country."

Despite Hull’s relatively small levels of export to China, business leaders have been encouraged to think globally and also look east to pursue opportunities there. An invited audience at a Chinese new year event, organised by Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce last month, was told that China has a fast-growing consumer market and, in the next three years, is expected to become the world's largest luxury goods market, overtaking the US.

Experts explained how a that a huge explosion in Chinese e-commerce created the perfect climate for adventurous exporters and now was the time to start planning and building up contacts in what will soon be the world’s largest economy. Expanding into the Far East doesn’t come without risks, they advised, but the rewards could be great.

It all depends on just how “interesting” your business is willing to be.

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