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Food industry

Bilateral trade overview

Fishermen at work ©

While there has been a downward trend in the share of European exports in the world, the EU still remains the largest food exporter and second largest importer.

The European food industry is the worlds leading exporter of food products and has a positive trade balance. The most important destinations for exports are: USA, Russia, Switzerland, China and Japan.

As far as imports of Processed Agricultural Products are concerned, Switzerland, USA, Ivory Coast, China and Indonesia are the most important suppliers.

In addition to its international commitments arising under WTO the EU has also entered into certain bilateral agreements concerning trade in Processed Agricultural Products.
Bilateral agreements (e.g. Free Trade Agreements, Economic partnerships, Association Agreements, Stabilisation and Association Agreements) are agreements between two political entities, thus legally binding these two territories only. Specific preferential regimes have been set up for Processed Agricultural Products within the framework of these bilateral agreements. It falls to the European Commission to implement these preferential trade regimes on the EU's behalf. DG Enterprise participates in all bilateral trade negotiations for Processed Agricultural Products, within a strict mandate defined by the Member States.

The following are examples of bilateral trade negotiations DG Enterprise participates in:

  • Euro-Mediterranean
    (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Turkey)
  • Mercosur
    (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay)
  • Gulf Co-operation Council
    (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arabian Emirates)
  • European Economic Area
    (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein)
  • Switzerland
  • Balkan countries
  • Mexico
  • Chile



The EU is the world's largest exporter of food and drink products and the second largest importer. Nevertheless, its market share in the global export market has been shrinking over the past ten years to the benefit of Brazil and China. The EU is a net exporter of processed agricultural products (PAPs) with a positive trade balance of almost €31bn in 2013.


Taking 17% of all EU exports, the USA is number one export country of European food and drink industries followed by Russia with almost 7% in 2013. Switzerland, China, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China and Turkey are the next largest export destinations for the European PAPs.


On the imports side, Switzerland is the main supplier of PAPs to EU28 with a share of 16% in 2013, followed by USA with a share of 15% respectively for the same year. Ivory Coast, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia and Thailand are the next largest importers of PAPs.

The EU's food industry depends mainly on international trade negotiations, particularly those of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

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