4 March 2014

Most attention may be focused on events slightly further east but this week the UK Government is backing an intensive, five-day trade mission aimed at boosting trade with Central and Eastern Europe.

Led by Trade Minister Lord Livingston, the trip forms part of a broader effort to meet UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)’s target of doubling trade with that area by £30 billion by 2020.

As part of the initiative, Lord Livingston has launched two new British Business Centres, in Slovakia and Hungary, aiming to transform the quantity and quality of support available to small and mid-sized UK firms exporting to those countries.

Each business centre will be staffed with trade teams.

A British Business Centre for Poland opened last year and business centres in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia are due to open shortly, the Minister confirmed.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, along with five others in the Central Europe Network (Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia), have a combined population of over 100 million people, a combined GDP in excess of £1 trillion and annual average growth rates that in recent years have far exceeded most other European countries.

These countries also have low levels of public debt compared with the eurozone average and the region is about to benefit from £124 billion of EU funding between 2014 and 2020, enhancing investment prospects in infrastructure, energy and innovation.

"British firms have doubled trade exports to Eastern and Central European countries in the last 10 years but we still lag behind our rivals," he said. "By 2020, I want to double exports to this region, so we are ramping up our support for British firms on the ground by opening a network of business centres across the region and increasing the number of trade missions to introduce more British businesses to potential buyers."