I have always been one of those people that regard the glass as half full and take an optimistic view of life. When looking at business opportunities in the European market today, my optimistic observations take on a whole new meaning; these are not castles in the air; the glass really is half full!
The news media keep feeding us doom and gloom about European austerity packages and troika reports about imminent disaster in the dark south, whilst the European far North is left to carry on business as usual because that is exactly what these small but strong economies are doing as I write.
Did you for example realise that the Nordic countries combined constitute the UK’s 6th largest export market (only the US, Germany, Netherlands, France and Ireland are in front). And that actually, the UK’s export to the Nordics is at par with UK’s export to all of the BRIC markets put together. No? Well, others have! Finland is now boasting a trade surplus with the UK and so does Estonia.
While I am not suggesting that UK companies shouldn’t target the high-growth BRIC markets, I AM suggesting companies take a look at what’s right outside our doorstep, namely markets with which we have developed trade through centuries and that are still thriving – even while affected by the global economic crisis.
Norwegian growth in consumer consumption predicted for the next two years is 8%. Even without counting the oil and gas related economy, GDP growth in Norway is 1,8% this year and expected to be 2% in 2013. Sweden can match this with growth forecasts of 2,3% next year, while Iceland, whom everybody knows was the first to suffer the effect of the current financial crises, has re-established growth of between 2,4% and 2,6% for the next 18 months. Not to mention the small Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are all seeing a steady 2% growth this year, and between 2,5% and 3,6% in 2013 (OECD).
To top it all, the three leading credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings have all awarded the top AAA grade to the economies of the Scandinavian countries. Because these countries have all managed to ride the rocky waves of financial instability in Europe considerably better than the rest of Europe, they had a uniquely strong position when the crisis erupted; public finances were under stricter control, low public debt and reasonably low unemployment – all factors contributing to a large capacity for financial resistance. AND SO WHAT? you might think.
I really urge UK companies to take advantage of the economic growth in Northern Europe and specifically target business opportunities within infrastructure and rail, healthcare, energy and low carbon. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) teams on the ground keep a close eye on the major market opportunities and stand ready to assist all UK companies to tap into the most lucrative market openings.
So European optimism is not just castles in the air, indeed, it’s real tangible economic growth. Contact UKTI to get from optimism to business development in Northern Europe!