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More than a third of exporters have their eyes trained on the US as the market of most interest to them if the government secures a good trade deal, according to research by DHL Express.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of SMEs who export or are planning to export said that Brexit had increased their costs of doing business, with 38% concerned about a lack of awareness among customers about the additional import costs.

However, only 28% have proactively alerted their customers about the potential customs, VAT charges and shipping costs.

The research also found mixed feelings among SMEs for the remainder of the year, with 33% believing the outlook was positive for them, 30% disagreeing and 37% unsure.

Volume of paperwork following Brexit (45%) and complexity of the regulations now (50%) figured highly as challenges to businesses.

But 34% said the US was of interest to them, or likely to be the most beneficial, if the government struck a new or enhanced trade deal.

Ian Wilson, DHL Express UK chief executive, said its survey showed many businesses were facing challenges and needed support to help navigate the changes: “Nonetheless, it’s encouraging that small and medium businesses are still continuing to prioritise exporting outside the UK, which shows a great deal of resilience through what has been a difficult time,” he added.

“As we look ahead to the rest of 2022 and the years to come, we hope to see more trade deals that smooth the path for global growth.”