February 7 2013.

- UK trade deficit in goods and services was £3.2bn in December 2012, compared with a deficit of £3.6bn in November

- In 2012 as a whole, trade deficit was £37.7bn, significantly up on £23.6bn deficit in 2011

Commenting on the UK's trade figures, published today by the ONS, Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: "Despite the slight improvement in the trade deficit in December, it is clear that the global economy is failing to provide any tangible support to the UK's economic recovery. The trade deficit for the last three months of the year stands at more than £10bn, and this clearly acted as a drag on the UK economy, which contracted by 0.3% in the fourth quarter.

"The government must do all it can to put international trade at the forefront of its economic strategy, and encourage non-exporters to start thinking global. We welcome the government's expansion of trade promotion budgets, and would urge them to go even further to support firms wishing to break into new markets. UK businesses are determined, but need all the help they can get if they are to succeed in driving an export-led recovery."

David Kern, Chief Economist at the BCC, added: "Although the trade figures show a small fall in the deficit in December, they remain disappointing. The UK's external deficit is still significant and we are not yet making sufficient progress in rebalancing the economy towards net exports. In the last three months, the underlying volume of exports fell by 0.8%, compared with a 0.5% fall in imports. While we are seeing some rebalancing of our exports towards faster-growing economies outside Europe, the trend is not yet fast enough.

"But we must remain positive. British exporters have considerable untapped potential. There is realistic hope that we can make more progress in 2013, if the government implements the measures it announced to support companies looking to break into new markets. We also need a national export strategy that focuses on key areas such as trade, finance, promotion, and insurance, and would enable British firms to penetrate new and growing markets and compete on equitable terms with other exporters."