Today we were treated by BBC Breakfast to the sight of a Class 66 locomotive, built in the USA, sporting the logo of the UK freight operator Deutsche Bahn hauling wagons, possibly built in Belgium or France about to set off on a rail journey to China.
The presenter, at Thurrock described the products made in the UK that are being exported on the train to China as including pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, ‘baby products’, food, and other typically British products.
According to the interviews, the train will allow UK exporters – perhaps especially those in advanced manufacturing – to ship those key parts to China, more quickly by land.
The UK has a balance of trade deficit with China – we export around £16 billion, but import close to £40 billion.
The overall irony – however laudable this exercise is – seems to rest on the fact that the UK has little home grown rail engineering, manufacturing, research or related business activity compared with its European neighbours.