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Most firms expect to gain from changing global trade

A survey of 1,000 UK firms has revealed which disruptive technologies businesses are most excited about and how companies are responding to rising protectionism in key trading markets.

According to HSBC’s annual Navigator survey, 73 per cent of UK companies believe that key trading countries are becoming more protective of their domestic markets, as evidenced most recently by a growing US-China trade war over tariffs.

However, almost two thirds (62 per cent) expect to gain more than they lose from this increasing protectionism - far higher than the European average - with many companies believing the potential benefits to their competitiveness would outweigh the drawbacks of higher tariffs and charges on supply chains.

While European companies are primarily responding to increasing protectionism by cutting costs, UK companies are employing a much wider range of “proactive and defensive” approaches, HSBC said. The most common approaches include sourcing more from local suppliers, shortening supply chains overseas, raising prices, changing offerings, and entering into joint ventures with other local companies.

However, despite predictions of rising protectionism and the continuing uncertainty over Brexit, 86 per cent of UK firms said they felt positive about the outlook for international trade in the near-term.

The Navigator survey also asked companies about the breakthrough technologies they expect to have the greatest impact on their business over the next five years. 5G technology was seen as the most important overall, with data security, AI and machine learning, the Internet of Things and robotics making up the top five. 3D printing and augmented or virtual reality - two other key digital manufacturing technologies for the future - came in eighth and ninth place respectively.

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