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The UK's exports globally in 2010 were valued at £3281.5m, up 58.1%, while imports registered £2723m, a 46.3% rise.

The statistics compiled by ATG based on data from HM Revenue & Customs, showed the United States remains the UK's most important trading partner, with exports of antiques up 12.5% at £209.3m and pictures up 52% at £945.4m. Respective imports saw a 79% rise in antiques from the US at £197.4m and a 28.9% increase in pictures at £963.1m.

The most noticeable change, however, has been the rise in importance of China, particularly Hong Kong, which has overtaken Switzerland as the second most important destination for antiques leaving the UK.

While shipments to Switzerland in this sector have risen by just over 7% to reach £25.7m, Hong Kong is now taking more than three times the value of antiques it did in 2009, the total rising from £23.5m to £71.5m.

Mainland China comes in fourth, taking £18m in antiques from the UK in 2010 compared to just £5.3m the year before.

Pictures have also travelled a great deal more between the UK and Hong Kong, as the tables note.

In general, the statistics reflect those in the latest TEFAF report, published a week ago, which noted that while the world market was recovering as a whole, the Far Eastern markets of Hong Kong and China were seeing the biggest growth.

Further notable highlights here include the £31m in picture exports to Singapore, which may be explained by its increasing importance as a freeport since Christie's opened their facility there in 2009. It is due for expansion this year.

Trade with Russia has fallen away notably, while there has been a surge in the movement of pictures to and from Mexico. Could this be linked to the world's richest man, Calos Slim Helu's new museum in Mexico City?

Readers should note that all of these figures reflect the value of goods moved across UK borders, rather than the value of everything traded, although trends for both tend to run parallel and the trade figures certainly indicate strengths and weaknesses in the global marketplace.

By Ivan Macquisten