Where in Asia will you begin your international adventure?


Over the past three months, we’ve been focusing on trading with Asia – home to a number of UKTI’s designated high growth markets. UKTI’s Asia Task Force says: “Each of the Asian high growth markets offers British businesses a distinctive set of challenges and opportunities to explore and capitalise on.”

But where do you start? Here we highlight the advantages of trading with nine of these high growth markets. 


Designated as the world’s largest trader after the EU, it goes without saying that China is one of the greatest economic success stories of the past 30 years. In a report towards the end of last year, it was revealed that “there are a wealth of opportunities across a broad number of sectors and UK companies need to look beyond the traditional business locations in China.”

With over 30 different provinces, and a large population of around 1.3 billion, China should be seen as a series of markets, offering myriad opportunities for British businesses.

Top exports: electrical and other machinery, including data processing equipment, apparel, radio telephone handsets, textiles, integrated circuits.

Top imports: electrical and other machinery, oil and mineral fuels, optical and medical equipment, metal ores, motor vehicles.

Hong Kong 

As one of the world’s most open and business friendly environments, Hong Kong has been attracting British businesses to the region for years. Its location in central East Asia makes it an ideal base for regional operations, and with easy access to mainland China, plus half the world’s population in just five hours’ flying time, the opportunities further afield are vast.

What’s more, ranked second in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, as well as having a free trade policy meaning there’s no charge tariff on importation or exportation of goods, it’s no surprise that so many British businesses have already taken the decision to do business with Hong Kong.

Top exports: electrical machinery and appliances, textiles, apparel, footwear, watches and clocks, toys, plastics, precious stones, printed material.

Top imports: raw materials and semi-manufactures, consumer goods, capital goods, foodstuffs, fuel (most is re-exported).


As one of the UK’s top trading partners, India has become a compelling trade destination for British businesses, mirroring China in terms of its emergence as one of the fastest developing economies of the last 20 years.

Earlier in the year, the Prime Minister led the largest ever trade mission to India to capitalise on the growing number of opportunities for trade and investment between the two countries, and over the past two years, exports to and imports from India have been consistently high.

Top exports: petroleum products, precious stones, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, vehicles, apparel.

Top imports: crude oil, precious stones, machinery, fertilizer, iron and steel, chemicals.


As the world’s fourth most populous country, sixteenth most prosperous country and the largest economy in South East Asia, Indonesia is a big country full of big opportunities. Indonesia has enjoyed steady economic growth for a number of years, and Goldman Sachs predicts it will become the eighth largest economy in the world by 2050.

English is widely spoken in the major cities and bilateral trade between the UK and Indonesia is healthy, with considerable growth and investment opportunities in many areas, including ports, railways and infrastructure. Plus, with a growing affluent middle-class of around 45 million, the demand for quality goods is strong.

Top exports: oil and gas, electrical appliances, plywood, textiles, rubber.

Top imports: machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs.


Malaysia provides a wide range of opportunities for UK businesses. In fact, Malaysia is the UK’s second-largest export market in South East Asia, after Singapore, and the UK is one of the largest investors in the country, investing over £20 billion in the past 30 years.

Its strategic position between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, combined with a strong economy, a stable political environment and the widespread use of English, make Malaysia a popular choice with investors. What’s more, ranked an impressive number twelve in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, Malaysia is high on the lists of many exporters looking to do business with Asia.

Top exports: semiconductors and electronic equipment, palm oil, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals, solar panels.

Top imports: electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, chemicals.


Singapore is the UK’s largest trading partner in South East Asia and one of the largest export markets outside the EU.

With English as the official business language, a legal system based on British Common Law and only a small proportion of goods subject to duty, the barriers of international trade are significantly reduced here. Plus, ranked first in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report two years in a row, Singapore is the ideal springboard to explore the South-East Asian market.

Top exports: machinery and equipment (including electronics and telecommunications), pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, refined petroleum products.

Top imports: machinery and equipment, mineral fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs, consumer goods. 

South Korea

South Korea has demonstrated incredible growth and global integration over the past four decades. Joining the trillion dollar club of world economies in 2004, the high-tech industrialised economy is now the twelfth largest in the world.

And with a GDP of over $1 trillion (just less than the size of the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations), South Korea’s economy is set to make the tenth largest contribution to word growth over the next five years.

Top exports: semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals.

Top imports: machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics.


With a population of 67 million, Thailand is the second largest economy in South East Asia, and one which enjoys a strong trade and investment relationship with the UK with bilateral trade in goods and services valued at £5 billion.

Social and economic development led Thailand’s World Bank income categorization upgrade from a lower-middle income economy to an upper-middle income economy. The World Bank also ranks Thailand in the top 20 (out of 185 economies) in its Ease of Doing Business report.

Thailand is strategically located at the heart of Asia and borders Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, offering a gateway to a number of regional markets.

Top exports: electronics, computer parts, automobiles and parts, electrical appliances, machinery and equipment, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber.

Top imports: capital goods, intermediate goods and raw materials, consumer goods, fuels.


As an emerging high growth market, there are real opportunities for businesses in Vietnam. Economic growth is strong; over the past ten years it has been second only to China, GDP has been doubling every ten years since 1986 and UK/Vietnam bilateral trade is now worth around $1.9 billion.

The UK enjoys a solid relationship with Vietnam and trade and investment ties are an important element of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2010. A visit to the UK from the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam in January marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and was a clear sign of the UK Government’s commitment to building stronger relationships with the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Top exports: clothes, shoes, electronics, seafood, crude oil, rice, coffee, wooden products, machinery.

Top imports: machinery and equipment, petroleum products, steel products, raw materials for the clothing and shoe industries, electronics, plastics, automobiles.

To find out more about these high growth Asian markets, visit

Note: Top import and exports taken from individual country pages on CIA World Factbook.

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