The OECD’s 2023 international merchandise trade statistics highlight the UK’s export problems last year. The UK had the lowest export figures of all the G7 countries and the second-worst trade balance, although exports did grow by 0.14% over 2022.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published its international merchandise trade statistics for 2023. Analysing the results, the international delivery expert ParcelHero says the UK’s export figures were bottom of the table of all the G7 countries and the second-worst in terms of trade balance.

The total value of goods exported from the UK was $458.92bn, lower than that of all the other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA. Canada had the next lowest at $568.60bn while the USA predictably topped the chart with goods exports of $2,020.61bn. Despite a -7.96% year-on-year (YOY) fall in imports to $715.32bn, the UK also had the second-largest trade balance deficit of -$256.44bn. Only the USA’s enormous -$1,063.45bn was higher.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘The UK’s export results have been at the bottom of the G7 table for some years now, so the news that they were the lowest once again is no surprise. It’s just a good job that there’s no relegation from the G7.

‘Britain’s goods exports of $458.92bn converts to £369.13bn at 2023 exchange rates, according to the OECD. That’s rather less than the UK’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculation of £392.7bn.

‘However, these gloomy export figures actually mask some better news for the UK economy. Britain’s goods exports rose in value by 0.14% over 2022, and that’s a positive, near mid-table achievement. For example, Canada’s exports fell by -5.06% YOY and the USA’s by -2.16%. In terms of export growth, France actually topped the league at 5.01% YOY growth.

‘In terms of imports, the UK’s total import of goods was $715.32bn. According to the OECD, that’s around £575.45bn at 2023 exchange rates. This result placed the UK third from bottom of the G7 imports table, above Canada’s $559.29bn and Italy’s $646.52bn, but below France’s $788.3bn and the USA’s table-topping $3,084.06bn. The result represents a fall of -7.96% in the value of UK imports YOY. That’s bad news for importers of course, but better news for the UK’s overall trade balance of -$256.44bn. In 2022, it had reached -$317.05bn.

‘One important thing to bear in mind is that both export and import values only represent goods, or “merchandise”, as the OECD terms them. The OECD’s final figures for UK exports of services for 2023 are not yet available, but we do know that the ONS has calculated the UK’s export of services to be worth £466.7bn, significantly more than its figure of £392.7bn for goods exports. It calculates a final exports of goods and services combined figure to be £859.2bn.

‘According to the ONS, the US was the largest of all UK exports markets in 2023. The latest figures available, for the four quarters to September 2023, show UK exports of goods and services to the US were worth £193.1bn – that’s 21.9% of all UK exports. That figure far eclipses our exports to the next biggest individual trading nation, fellow G7 member Germany (worth £60.4bn).

‘With these results in mind, it’s small wonder that the US is also ParcelHero’s biggest individual overseas market. Sending a parcel to the USA is no more challenging than sending it to closer G7 countries, such as Germany. However, we do advise everyone sending items to the US to check ParcelHero’s USA page, which gives full details on any US courier holidays, changes in prices, Customs advice and details about sending food etc.

By Alison