British exports to China grow

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The Independent Online
The Government insured British exports worth more than pounds 4bn last year, an increase of a third on 1994, according to figures released yesterday by the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

They show huge increases in exports guaranteed by the ECGD to China and Indonesia, emphasising the attraction UK firms have for doing business with overseas regimes with questionable human rights records.

Indonesia was the second most popular market, with guarantees worth pounds 545m in the year to last April, compared with pounds 220m the previous year. Two thirds of these were to back a pounds 360m contract by British Aerospace to supply Hawk training jets to the Indonesian authorities. BAe has faced long-running protests from anti-arms trade campaigners against the deal, which is for 24 aircraft. Protesters have claimed the Hawk can easily be transformed into an attack plane.

In total, backing for defence-related exports increased from pounds 543m to pounds 841m. Half went to the Far East, while 27 per cent were accounted for by Middle Eastern countries, in particular Saudi Arabia. Civil exports, excluding aerospace, surged from pounds 1.33bn to pounds 2.44bn.

China was the largest export market for the second year running, with ECGD business rising from pounds 237.5m to pounds 882.5m. A pounds 536m guarantee backed an order for GEC Alsthom to supply two huge steam turbine power station generators, the biggest single deal of the year.

GEC Alsthom was also responsible for the second largest deal guaranteed, involving a coal-fired power station in the Philippines.

The department also painted a brighter picture for exporters doing business with the former Soviet Union. The Government has provided pounds 490m worth of guarantees for exports to Russia because exports could not be backed on commercial terms.

Around pounds 400m of this credit facility has been used up and much of the rest is accounted for by contracts in the pipeline. The DTI is soon to announce whether further credits will be made available.

Altogether the department contributed pounds 246m to Treasury coffers, a marked improvement in its finances despite an overall deficit in its accounts of pounds 2.3bn.

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