Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Given the recent spats between the devolved nations and the UK Government over the decision by David Cameron to exercise the UK veto over the EU treaty in December, there have been numerous statements on how this will have an effect on Welsh trade with the European Union.

According to a recent statement from the First Minister of Wales, "some 50% of exports from Wales are to the EU". Yet recent data from the Welsh Government's own statistics suggest that it is considerably less than that, as figure 1 below shows. In fact, only Scotland had a lower proportion of exports with the EU in the third quarter of 2011.

Will this mean that any downturn in the eurozone will affect Wales less than the majority of other UK regions?

Certainly, as figure 2 demonstrates, there has been a gradual long term decline in the proportion of Welsh exports that go to EU countries since 1999.  The export profile of Wales has changed considerably since devolution and whilst Europe is still a key partner, the fact that we have moved away from a dependency of 75 per cent on the EU back in 2002 to 40 per cent in 2011 shows that, thankfully, we now have a far more balanced exporting economy.

A further piece of good news is that the relative importance of exporting has grown in Wales, and now accounts for 4.6 per cent of all UK exports as compared to 3.7 per cent in 1999.  Europe has played a minor part in this growth - the total value of EU exports has only increased by 16.6 per cent during 1999-2011 whilst overall Welsh exports have gone up in value by 107.3 per cent over the same period.

Yes, the EU remains a major trading partner but thankfully, exports to other parts of the World are also becoming important to the future of the Welsh economy. Perhaps that, and the growth in overall exports, is what the Welsh Government should have been celebrating last month rather than trying to score political points against David Cameron.

More on this in today's Western Mail.

Figure 1: Exports to the EU as a percentage of total exports, by UK region, quarter 3 2011.

Table 2: EU exports as a proportion of total Welsh exports, 1999-2011

Figure 4. Welsh exports, by region, quarter 3, 1999

Figure 4. Welsh exports, by region, quarter 3, 2011