UK becoming more reliant on cheap imports from Asia

EU Trade

The UK is becoming ever more reliant on manufacturing imports from cheap factories in Asia, despite talk from bosses that they would bring home more of their production given the supply chain disruption during the pandemic.

Between July and September last year the Manufacturing Technology Centre’s (MTC’s) manufacturing import ratio, which measures manufactured goods imports from low-cost Asian countries as a percentage of UK manufacturing gross output, hit 61 per cent. That compares with 44 per cent in the opening months of 2020, just before the pandemic began. A higher percentage indicates a lower level of reshoring, the process of bringing manufacturing operations back home.

The latest rise continues a “decades-long trend”, the MTC’s report said. British companies have capitalised on globalisation to move supply chains overseas where labour costs are much lower.

That has helped to drive down prices for consumers but global supply chains have struggled to cope over the past couple of years, leading to shortages of certain products and price rises.

“Our analysis shows the UK continues to be too reliant on manufacturing imports from Asian low cost countries,” Clive Hickman, chief executive of the MTC, said. “We must lead a renaissance in UK manufacturing with a renewed focus on jobs, skills and resilience to encourage the reshoring of industry.”

The UK’s manufacturing output has yet to recover to where it was in 2018 but over the same period, our imports from low-cost Asian countries have risen by 39 per cent. The amount of manufactured goods we bring in from China has risen by 67 per cent.