Success in the West Midlands has disguised underperforming export data with the UK failing to keep pace with a £1 trillion target by 2020, according to the Ed Balls.
Speaking to the Post, the Shadow Chancellor said the Government was falling “way below” George Osborne’s 2012 goal of doubling exports by the end of the decade.
And he said average export growth of 4.2 per cent since 2010, which is half of the rate needed, would be significantly lower without double digit annual growth from the West Midlands , on the back of soaring Jaguar Land Rover sales .
Research carried out by Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, a shadow treasury minister, shows the Government would be £330 billion below its aim and the exports would now have to grow by 10 per cent a year to hit the target.
Speaking on a visit to the region, Mr Balls said: “If it wasn’t for the West Midlands a bad performance for the UK would be even worse, because of the likes of Jaguar and JCB.
“So this is partly saying that the rest of the country needs to learn from the experience of the West Midlands and what was done to get Jaguar moving.
“Clearly that is a big success story but they had a lot of help at the start from Advantage West Midlands and intensive work with the Apprenticeships Service, whereas now the regional development agencies have gone, local enterprise partnerships are too weak and the number of apprenticeships for under-25s is going down. Meanwhile the export guarantees the Government put in place haven’t helped a single company.
“Although I am happy that the West Midlands has bucked the trend we need to learn from that.”
The West Midlands has consistently led the way in terms of exports in the past two years, recording a rise of 18.4 per cent last year.
Since 2011, total exports have risen to £27 billion, up from £22.8 billion last year and £21.3 billion in 2011.
In the same period, exports from the nine English regions in total have shrunk from £223.4 billion to £220.2 billion.
Ms Mahmood said the country was suffering from a “race to the bottom” on wages and skills.
In contrast, Labour is arguing for a plan that backs British business to succeed overseas and helps the UK earn its way to higher living standards, she stressed.
She added: “We desperately need to get more businesses exporting to boost middle-income jobs and deliver a strong and sustained recovery that is built to last and which delivers rising living standards for the many, not just a few at the top.
“Labour in government after 2015 will balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible within the next parliament. But we will do so in a fairer way.”
This would include reversing David Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires, tackling tax avoidance through greater transparency and cutting the winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners, she said.
She also called for an end to the “dither and delay” on infrastructure, reform of uncompetitive markets like energy and banking and the cutting of business rates for British firms.
According to the library research, commissioned by Ms Mahmood, exports in 2013 were £505.6 billion.
Meanwhile, Mr Balls told the Post that Labour was the party of devolution and would bring more power to the regions if it was in government.
He said: “I want to see more devolution of decision-making and resources of the cities, towns and regions.
“We need to invest more in infrastructure. The issue is always getting value for money and getting the best outcome.
“I think you are most likely to get the best outcome if the decisions are made locally.”
He added: “That is something that myself, Chuka Umunna and Michael Heseltine all agree on but David Cameron and George Osborne don’t appear to believe in regional economic leadership.
“You can expect a lot more of this – and not only in infrastructure but also things like skills and taxation – under a Labour government.”