While the trade data showed that the UK still imports far more than it exports, the £2.6 billion defict for April was smaller than March’s £3.2bn shortfall and better than economists’ predictions. A £1.3bn fall in imports from Europe, the UK’s biggest trading partner, was behind the lower trade deficit.
The UK’s growth prospects have been given a fillip by robust data from the UK’s services, construction and manufacturing sectors in recent days, adding to hopes that gross domestic product (GDP) can gain on the 0.3 per cent expansion in the first quarter.
However, economists criticised the UK government’s attempts to rebalance the economy towards exports under Chancellor George Osborne’s “march of the makers” strategy for being too slow.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The gap between imports and exports remains too large and we are not yet making sufficient progress in closing it.
“More action is needed to unleash the untapped potential of many British exporters.”
Colin Edwards, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, added: “It is all too clear that going forward it is becoming increasingly important that the UK make inroads into faster growing emerging markets if it is to see trade making a more positive contribution to the recovery.”