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Liam Fox's target for post-Brexit exports is wishful thinking | The Guardian |

The timing of the government's latest export drive is far from accidental. With Theresa May intent on showing Brussels that Britain could not just survive but thrive in the event of a hard Brexit, Whitehall has come up with a plan for increasing the amount of goods and services sold overseas.

This is by no means the first attempt to broaden the horizons of UK plc. Back in 2015, the aim was to double exports to £1tn a year by 2020. That always looked a stretch and the target was dropped by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, early last year.

Now Fox has returned with a different target: to raise exports as a share of gross domestic product from 30% to 35%.

Ministers would dearly love Britain to be up there with Germany as a European exporting powerhouse, but have so far failed to learn the right lessons. Germany runs the world's biggest current account surplus but that has little to do with export strategies cooked up by Angela Merkel's officials in Berlin.

Put simply, Germany has top quality products that the rest of the world wants to buy. It has an enviable reputation for design, product quality and after-sales service. A competitive currency allowed Germany to build up its industrial strength in the 1950s and 1960s, and is still a helpful factor today. Finance and industry work in partnership, giving exporters long-term security. When global demand is strong, as it was during the post-war boom and has again been the case recently, Germany has a surge in exports.

There are opportunities out there, even with the shadow of protectionism hanging over the global economy. But seizing them is not a matter of setting Gosplan-like targets. It is not even a matter of signing free trade deals. It is a matter of getting the basics right.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 08:16:49 AM EST

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