Weak German exports and Asia Pacific fears highlight sluggish global economy

German exports rise more slowly than expected as Asia Pacific leaders warn of weak trade and low global growth

The sluggishness of the global economy has been highlighted, with German exports rising by less than expected and leaders from across the Asia Pacific region warning that trade is weakening.

Exports from Europe’s largest economy rose 1% in August but came in short of the expected 1.5% increase.

Despite the rise, which followed an unexpected fall in July, the data from the federal statistics office showed German exports continue to be hit by weak demand from the eurozone.

Imports rose by 0.4%, widening Germany’s trade surplus to €15.6bn (£13.2bn) from €15bn in July – higher than analysts had predicted but below a surplus of €18.1bn in the same month last year.

On an annual basis, German imports were 2.2% lower than in August 2012 while exports of goods were 5.4% lower.

Meanwhile, leaders at an Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) meeting in Bali warned global growth was too weak and trade was slowing.

“Global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the downside, global trade is weakening, and the economic outlook suggests growth is likely to be slower and less balanced than desired,” leaders said in a statement.

“We will implement prudent and responsible macroeconomic policies to ensure mutually reinforcing effect of growth and to maintain economic and financial stability in the region, and prevent negative spillover effect.”

The group of 21 countries includes Japan, China, Russia, Australia and the US, although the US government shutdown meant President Barack Obama was not present at the meeting to back the statement.

Elsewhere, HSBC said British companies needed more help from the government to fulfil their export potential. Since the onset of the financial crisis, UK policymakers have repeatedly emphasised the need to rebalance the economy away from a reliance on spending and towards manufacturing and exports.

The government has an ambition to double exports to £1tr by 2020, an increase HSBC said would require “considerable work”.

Britain’s largest bank said UK business confidence was rising, and predicted growth in hi-tech manufacturing, but it said companies needed more practical help.

Publishing a manifesto for British exports, HSBC said businesses required assistance to make connections with other parts of the world, support with the initial costs and risks of exporting, and the confidence that came from clear information about international opportunities.

Among its recommendations was an examination of the case for export tax credits for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), an improvement in SME access to export credit guarantees, and a simplification of the business visa process.

“Britain’s businesses are among the most innovative and imaginative in the world. But in recent years, these talents have failed to deliver significant export growth,” said Alan Keir, chief executive of HSBC Bank.

“Achieving the government’s target of doubling exports to £1tn by 2020 will take considerable work by all parties, yet we know from talking to our customers that many businesses with massive export potential are still holding back from looking overseas.”

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