Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy
In December 2020, the Export Action Plan for Wales was published setting out how the Welsh Government will deliver support to Welsh exporters and to those companies who are looking to export for the first time.
Exports are vital to the Welsh economy and our Programme for Government commits us to implement our ambitious Plan to maintain and grow Wales’ export performance, despite the ongoing challenges in the global trading environment. From the war in Ukraine to currency instability and the increased costs of shipping and energy. These global issues have had a major impact on our exporters already contending with the issues brought about by the UK’s exit from the EU and the Covid pandemic.
Despite these continued challenges, Welsh exporters have demonstrated their resilience. The latest provisional export figures for the year ending June 2022 show that the value of goods exports from Wales was £18.4 billion, an increase of more than a third compared to the previous 12-month period and up £0.7 billion compared to the year ending June 2019, indicating that goods exports have recovered beyond pre-pandemic levels. It should be noted, however, that the value of Wales’ goods exports are potentially much lower than would have been the case in the absence of these global challenges. We cannot, therefore, be complacent and remain steadfast in our ambition to drive further growth in Welsh exports.
A key part of this is the importance of inspiring businesses to take up exporting, where that is right for them. Over the past year we have showcased exporting successful companies through our Export Exemplars campaign and provided intensive support to businesses with the potential to trade internationally via the New Exporter programme. Our Export Conference in March 2022 was the first in-person event delivered by our Export Team since 2018, attracting more than 200 delegates and supported by more than a dozen partner organisations. It was an opportunity to bring together the export ecosystem from across Wales, highlight the work of the Welsh Government to support exporters and introduce companies to our overseas offices and the work that they can do to support companies to export.
In addition, we have enhanced our online support for exporters through the Export Hub, a digital platform hosted by Business Wales that offers companies access to a comprehensive resource of expert export information as well as delivered a comprehensive series of online webinars for Welsh businesses to understand export processes and opportunities in key overseas markets including those with which the UK has entered into Free Trade Agreements.
During the last year, we have delivered a full programme of trade missions and exhibitions in markets across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The lifting of travel restrictions has meant we have been able to reinstate physical trade missions, as well as maintaining a virtual programme. I am proud to have led trade missions to the UAE and Qatar this year and seen first-hand the benefits of companies meeting potential customers in-person. The trade mission to UAE coincided with World Expo in Dubai and was an opportunity for Welsh businesses to take part in a global webinar event being delivered as part of the Expo programme.
Wales’ success in qualifying for the men’s football World Cup has provided a platform to celebrate and promote Welsh exporters across the globe. The Football Association of Wales recently joined us on a trade mission to North Carolina where they could showcase their internationally recognised youth coaching models in the USA. We were also fortunate to have Wales football coach, Rob Page, join us at the home of the Carolina Panthers NFL team, via a digital link, as we looked forward to our World Cup game against the USA.
In delivering the Export Action Plan and supporting businesses in Wales to grow their international trade, we have continued to work closely with the export support ecosystem in Wales. Whilst the Welsh Government is at the heart of this ecosystem, we rely on our partners to deliver support and expertise.
As we progress with delivering the Plan, we will continue to build on the solid platform that has been laid over the last twelve months. The global trading market remains unpredictable, and our economy is still recovering. We need to be able to react and respond to global conditions to best support the needs of businesses on their export journey.