Exploring the export opportunities in Europe

As 2013 is flashing past us at lightning bolt place, we can’t quite believe the time has come to move to our final focus of the year: Europe.

Export opportunities Europe

This might sound like a strange choice given that the media, government and business leaders tend to focus on exporting to growing markets outside of Europe in the CIVETS and BRIC nations, but that doesn’t mean you should forget those markets with potential inside the European Union.

The 27 countries of the European Union offer huge market potential to UK businesses, and can often be easier to access than further overseas due to uniform trading practices, regulations and standards throughout the EU. Benefiting traders in all of the 27 member states, the four key freedoms of the EU cover the free movement of goods, capital, services and persons, meaning goods and services can cross country borders without being subject to charges.

In practical terms, this means that most shipments can be dispatched to other member states of the EU without special customs documentation. There are exceptions, including sales to international organisations, which are treated as exports, and exports to special EU territories. For more information, read a basic guide to trading abroad on the HMRC website.

We’ve outlined some key countries we’re going to focus on over the next three months and the reasons why we think these markets are a good bet for international growth:


Situated in the heart of Europe, just an hour by air from the UK, Germany is the UK’s number one European export market and number two worldwide, with annual sales of more that €2 trillion in goods and services. Its location also provides instant access to established markets in Western Europe and emerging markets in central and Eastern Europe.


Another country located at the heart of Europe, and as a member of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade organization (WTO) and the European Union, Poland is one of the emerging European economies offering increasing export opportunities for UK businesses at all levels. Poland was also the only EU country to avoid the recession since the downturn began.


As the largest country wholly in Europe strategically located on EU borders, Ukraine offers long-term opportunities in a broad range of sectors. Following Ukraine’s WTO membership in 2008, the EU and Ukraine immediately launched negotiations for an agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area.


France is an open and highly competitive market with export opportunities in most sectors, especially for small and medium-sized business. It’s home to world leading companies in many innovative industries and is the third largest recipient of foreign direct investment, offering new opportunities for UK companies. France’s strategic location at the heart of Western Europe is well served by a highly developed transport and communication network.


After Poland, Romania is the second largest consumer market in Central and Eastern Europe with a population of 22 million, and since EU accession, there has been increasing interest in Romania from UK business. Plus, with its location providing easy access to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East, Romania is a growing market for UK business.


Ranked among the world’s eighth largest economies and one of the world’s top exporters, Italy has a long-standing tradition of doing business with the UK. Its strategic location provides a gateway to the Mediterranean and acts as a crossway between Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

DHL has observed that exports to Italy are growing by more than 10%.


The UK and Spain are major trade and investment partners. Spain is the UK’s eighth largest export market with exports exceeding those to Brazil and India combined, and the UK is Spain’s fifth largest supplier. Although the country remains affected by the global financial crisis, the size of its economy and the structural reforms required to generate growth offer major commercial opportunities.

DHL has observed that exports to Spain are growing by more than 10%.


Ireland’s young population (with a third aged 25-44) makes it attractive to exporters in a number of areas, although it remains the UK’s largest export market in the food and drink sector. With cultural similarities, close transport links, the same language and similar regulatory frameworks, Ireland is an ideal first step market for UK companies. Two way trade stands at €1bn per week.

DHL has observed that exports to Ireland are growing by more than 10%.


Located in the heart of Europe, Belgium has always been a very attractive destination for UK exporters. It’s one of Europe’s most dynamic centres of trade and industry and the capital Brussels is a strategic hub for international business development playing host to NATO, the EU and numerous other international organisations.

DHL has observed that exports to Belgium are growing by more than 10%.


UKTI predicts the Turkish economy will be the second-fastest growing in the world by 2018 and will outstrip those of Italy and Spain in the next decade. Its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes Turkey a great springboard to many other markets, including the eight countries it borders.

(Information gathered from UK Trade and Investment).

UKTI also highlighted the prospects in Emerging Europe, urging exporters to take advantage of the opportunities in these nine markets (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) with over 100 million consumers.

So, whilst demand for British goods grows around the world, let’s not forget our neighbours in Europe.

Follow us on Twitter @dhlexpressuk to stay up-to-date with the latest international trade news from Europe! 

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