Importing and exporting to and from the UK brings billions to the economy every year, along with thousands of jobs in the process. However, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit could have major implications on the import and export industry.
That was a key conclusion of a recent Wales Exporters Association event held in Swansea. The discussion surrounded the implications of Brexit and how the port system in the UK helps exporters. It also focused on trading with Japan, a specialised subject of the speakers.
Key speaker Richard Butler, commercial manager of ABP South Wales, highlighted the impact the UK port system has on the economy. He stated that ABP contributes £1.5 billion to the UK economy every year, supports 22,000 jobs in Wales and collectively handles over 12 million tonnes of cargo annually across five of its ports in Wales alone.
Butler also informed the cruise market is set to pick up and South Wales will see six stop-overs in starting in July 2018, and enquiries for 2019 already suggest that this figure will be exceeded next year.
With regards to Brexit, Butler suggested that the UK ports and maritime sector will play a key role in post Brexit Britain.
Keynote speaker Sarah James, business development manager within the exporting department of the Welsh Government, agreed. She advised that businesses that trade overseas need a contingency plan in place for when a deal is reached – this is not something that should be compromised or put on the back burner.
James, who lived and worked in Japan for two years, also discussed the importance of that economy and its opportunities. She noted that Welsh exports to Japan were valued at £200 million in the April 2018 statistical release, proving the strong connection Wales has with Japan. The Welsh Government also has an office based in Tokyo, being a key market for many Welsh businesses.
James spoke about the history of investment between Wales and Japan, which has been strong since the 1980s. James informed guests on the cultural links between the two countries, as well as highlighting programmes that take place in the UK to support Japan, such as Japanese Saturday schools and the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), which sent 184 young people from the UK to Japan to teach English in 2015.
“Japan is the world’s third largest economy in terms of GDP. It is the powerhouse of Asia and such an innovative nation. The opportunities in Japan are far reaching for businesses, especially those in Wales due to the strong connection.“As long as your business is needed out there – it isn’t necessarily about how much investment you need, it’s more about the demand for it that matters to the people of Japan.”