Britain, Arms Manufacturer to the World

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Who would have thought the UK which sits at only fifth in the world league tables based on nominal GDP and for which manufacturing only accounts for 1/6th of national output could also hold the position of the world’s largest arms exporter in 2007? It may explain why the UK still has a robust metals distribution market; the defense industry is a large consumer of high quality metals. The UK won $10b of export orders last year giving it 33% of the world market and with it there will be a multi-billion dollar demand for specialist steels, aluminum, titanium and other exotic alloys. Even averaging over the last five years Britain is second to the USA at $53b relative to the US’s $63b and way ahead of the next placed Russia at $ 33b or France $17b. Orders were spread over a wide range of product areas too. These areas include typhoon jets for Saudi Arabia, warships for Oman and the Caribbean plus extensive joint venture engagements with US defense contractors for the US market. Despite having only the 27th largest armed forces, Britain has the second highest military expenditure in the world, due to the high reliance on expensive advanced technology. Arguably Britain is well placed to support a large domestic military industry. With the weakness of the US dollar this may represent yet another export opportunity for US manufacturers, already Britain’s largest partner in defense projects.

–Stuart Burns

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