Intra-EU trade of the most traded goods

Data extracted in December 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: September 2016.

This article focuses on the most significant goods by value (according to the CPA classification) exchanged in intra-EU trade. It presents statistics for the EU-28, EU-27, EU-25, EU-15 and EU-12 aggregates for the years 2013, 2012, 2006, 2004 and 1994 respectively. Statistics on goods traded between EU Member States — especially the size and evolution of imports and exports — enable the EU and national authorities to evaluate the growth of the Single Market and the integration of EU economies. These statistics also provide EU businesses with essential information for their sales and marketing policies.

Figure 1: Intra-EU exports of total products, EU-12, EU-15, EU-25, EU-27 and EU-28
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)
Table 1: Intra-EU exports, top 5 most significant products - CPA division, EU-12, EU-15, EU-25, EU-27 and EU-28
(million EUR)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)
Figure 2: Evolution of intra-EU imports, top 5 most significant products, EU-12, EU-15, EU-25, EU-27 and EU-28
(million EUR)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Main statistical findings

Evolution of intra-EU trade

The value of cross-border trade between EU Member States has grown from EUR 800 billion in 1992 to EUR 2 800 billion in 2013. It must be noted that these rises reflect to a large extent the increase in the composition of the EU over this period.

Over the same time period, trade between the EU and the rest of the world tripled, from EUR 500 billion in 1992 to EUR 1 700 billion in 2013 [1].

Considering that the intra-EU trade data are based on common and largely harmonised rules, one might expect the intra-EU trade balance to be zero or at least close to it, meaning that at the EU aggregate level, total imports should equal total exports.

In theory for the EU aggregate, as intra-EU exports are declared free-on-board-type (FOB-type) value and intra-EU imports Cost-insurance-and-freight-type (CIF-type) value, the value of intra-EU imports should be slightly higher than that of intra-EU exports. However, since the introduction of the Intrastat data collection system for intra-EU trade on 1 January 1993, the value of intra-EU exports at the EU aggregate level has been consistently higher than that of intra-EU imports, showing that total intra-EU exports have better coverage than total intra-EU imports. The analysis presented in this section at the EU aggregate level only considers intra-EU exports as it is the more reliable measure of total intra-EU trade.

Figure 1 shows that the value of exports of all goods within the EU increased from 1994 to 2013. In 1994, total intra-EU exports stood at EUR 732 billion, while 10 years later, in 2004, the value had risen to EUR 1 628 billion. By 2006, intra-EU exports had almost doubled reaching EUR 2 321 billion. There was an increase in the total value of intra-EU exports between 2006, 2012 and 2013 however the percentage increase was much lower.

The 5 most significant products in intra-EU trade

There has been a degree of consistency in those goods that have been most significant in terms of value exported within the EU, although some variations in the evolution of the export figures for these goods can be seen.

In 1994 the top 5 intra-EU exported products by value (see Table 1) were ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ (EUR 96 billion) followed by ‘Chemicals and chemical products’ (EUR 77 billion), ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ (EUR 71 billion), ‘Food products’ (EUR 65 billion) and ‘Machinery and equipment’ (EUR 61 billion).

Ten years later, in 2004, the top 5 intra-EU exported goods were the same but in a different order (except for ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’, which kept the top spot). In 2006, ‘Basic metals’ (EUR 160 billion) replaced ‘Food products’ as the fifth most exported product in intra-EU trade. However, by 2012 and 2013, the top 5 intra-EU exported goods by value were again the same as in 1994 albeit in a slightly different order.

The evolution of the value of the top 5 products exported within the EU appeared to follow a similar trend. In 1994, the value of the top 5 goods exported to other EU Member States was EUR 369 billion or just over half the value of all goods exported within the EU. In 2004 (EUR 822 billion) and 2006 (EUR 1 179 billion), the top 5 intra-EU exported goods by value also accounted for over half of intra-EU goods exports. By 2012 and 2013, the relative importance of the top 5 goods traded within the EU had decreased to between 46 % and 47 % of the value of total intra-EU exports (EUR 1 238 billion in 2012, EUR 1 253 billion in 2013).

The evolution of the 5 leading intra-EU products (Figure 2) shows that ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ had the highest value of exports compared to the other most significant products. Figure 2 also shows that the greatest increase for all of the top 5 products in the value of intra-EU exports took place during the period of greatetst EU expansion (1994–2006) as one might expect. This increase also reflects increases in prices and actual volumes traded within the EU over the period. After 2006 the value of exports within the EU for both ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ and ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ fell. In 2006 the export figures were EUR 318 billion and EUR 297 billion respectively, falling in 2012 to EUR 303 billion and EUR 233 billion respectively.

The fall in the value of exports of ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ continued between 2012 and 2013, and over the period 2006–13 they fell by  24 %. Exports of ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ exhibited a more stable trend, dropping by 5 % from 2006 to 2012, but recovering between 2012 and 2013.

For the remaining three products types Figure 2 shows a continued increase until 2012 after which the trend levels out.

Figure 3 shows that the trend in the aggregate figure for the top 5 product types is generally reflected in the individual trends for those product types. The reduction in the total share of the top 5 product exports is mainly due to the shrinking share of ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’.

Figure 3: Intra-EU exports by top 5 most significant product groups, EU-12, EU-15, EU-25, EU-27 and EU-28
(million EUR)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Intra-EU trade of the most significant goods by Member State

The analysis in this section looks at intra-EU trade by individual EU Member State[2]. For this analysis we consider each EU Member State’s trade in goods with its EU partners by looking at the sum of its imports and exports. Since EU Member States’ trade with the rest of the EU is considered as an aggregate figure we are unable to examine any changes in the importance of individual bilateral trade relationships.

Table 2 shows that in 1994, Germany was the leading trading nation in the EU with the highest total volume trade in the 5 most significant products (‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ EUR 49 billion; ‘Chemicals and chemical products’ EUR 35 billion; ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ EUR 31 billion; ‘Food products’ EUR 25 billion and ‘Machinery and equipment’ EUR 32 billion). France was ranked second in 4 of these 5 products (the United Kingdom was second for ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’). Greece, Portugal and Ireland had the lowest total volume trade in the 5 most significant products.

Table 2: Intra-EU trade, top 5 most significant product groups by intra-EU partner, EU-12, 1994
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Tables 2 to 6 show that over the 1994–2013 period, the larger economies in the EU continued to have the highest trade values for the 5 most significant products. However, as might be expected, the trade value of the EU-12 Member States as a proportion of total intra-EU trade decreased as the EU expanded. For ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’, ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ and ‘Food products’ the EU-12 accounted for 70–75 % of the total intra-EU trade in these products by 2013. For ‘Chemicals and chemical products’ and ‘Machinery and equipment’ (EUR 32 billion) the EU-12 accounted for over 80 % of the total intra-EU trade in these products by 2013.

Table 3: Intra-EU trade, top 5 most significant product groups by intra-EU partner, EU-15, 2004
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)
Table 4: Intra-EU trade, top 5 most significant product groups by intra-EU partner, EU-25, 2006
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)
Table 5: Intra-EU trade, top 5 most significant product groups by intra-EU partner, EU-27, 2012
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)
Table 6: Intra-EU trade, top 5 most significant product groups by intra-EU partner, EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

From 1994 to 2013 intra-EU trade in ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ more than tripled from EUR 49 billion to EUR 166 billion. With the exception of Greece, all other EU Member States registered an increase in this sector. Over the period Germany remained the largest trader by value of ‘Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ with the value of its trade to other EU Member States more than tripling between 1994 and 2013, although this value has been relatively stable since 2006. Germany's relative share of intra-EU trade of motors remained at over one quarter of the total. This growth was driven by both increases in the price of these goods and changes in the composition of the EU as well as any increase in the volume of trade of motors.

For intra-EU trade in ‘Chemicals and chemical products’, Germany again had the largest share of trade throughout the period with between 19 % and 23 % of the EU total, more than tripling in value — from EUR 35 billion in 1994 to EUR 121 billion in 2013. France’s share fell over the same period from 17 % (second place in 1994 with EUR 22 billion) to 11 % in 2013 (fourth place with EUR 61 billion). In 2013 the Member States that joined the EU from 2004 onwards made up 11 % of the trade in chemicals. Poland ranked eighth in this sector in 2013 with 4 % of the total intra-EU trade following a 29 % increase from 2006 to 2013 (from EUR 15 billion to EUR 20 billion).

The share of ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ in total intra-EU trade grew between 1994 and 2006 from 10 % to 13 %. In 2012 the percentage dropped to 9 % and to 8 % in 2013. With an increase in value of EUR 320 billion over this period, intra-EU trade of ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ more than doubled. Germany maintained the highest share of this sectors’ trade during this period, reaching 26 % in 2013. Although for the United Kingdom, intra-EU trade in this sector grew by 35 % from 1994 to 2013, its share in the total EU trade of ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ went down from 18 % to 7 %. The Netherlands showed a similar pattern in trade in this product type with a decrease of 9 percentage points during the same period.

The Member States that joined the EU from 2004 onwards have made a contribution to the increase of intra-EU trade in this sector. Their share has increased from 4 % in 2004 to 11 % in 2012 and 16 % in 2013. Poland and the Czech Republic both had a 4 % share of the intra-EU trade of ‘Computer, electronic and optical products’ in 2013 and both EU Member States have showed increases from 2006 to 2013 (from EUR 10 billion and EUR 7 billion in 2006 to EUR 19 billion and EUR 17 billion in 2013, respectively).

The intra-EU trade of ‘Food products’ as a proportion of total intra-EU trade has remained stable, ranging from 8 % to 9 %, and in value this sector showed an increase of EUR 312 billion from 1994 to 2013. The largest share of total trade continues to be held by Germany and in 2013 it was closely followed by the Netherlands. In fact, the Netherlands has gained importance in this area, growing from a 6 % share in 2004 to a 17 % share in 2013. The Member States that have joined the EU since 2004 held more than a fifth (21 %) of total EU trade in this sector in 2013. Of the 12 EU Member States that reported figures in 1994, only Greece registered a decrease in the value of intra-EU trade in food products.

Intra-EU trade in ‘Machinery and equipment’ was the sector which showed the smallest increase in value terms (EUR 298 billion), but the highest growth rate (with its value of EUR 413 billion in 2013 over three times the figure in 1994 of EUR 115 billion). Intra-EU trade in this sector increased in all EU Member States. Germany had the highest share throughout the years under consideration; however its share in total intra-EU trade in this sector has decreased from 28 % in 1994 to 18 % in 2013. This was also the case for France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands. The other EU-12 countries registered an increase in their share of intra-EU trade in ‘Machinery and equipment’. The share of intra-EU trade in this sector for the 13 EU Member States who have joined the EU since 2004 was 13 % in 2013.

Data sources and availability

EU data comes from Eurostat’s COMEXT database. COMEXT is the Eurostat reference database for international trade. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade statistics, both aggregated and detailed, are disseminated through the Eurostat website and compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. As COMEXT is updated on a daily basis, data published on the website may differ from data stored in COMEXT in cases of recent revisions.

Information on intra-EU trade is collected by the EU Member States using the various media placed at the disposal of the information providers. These may be paper or electronic declarations provided for at national level. The declarations are addressed directly to the competent national administrations.

Context

The European internal market, also referred to as the Single Market, allows people and businesses to move and trade freely across the 28-nation group. The cornerstones of the single market are the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, known collectively as the ‘four freedoms’, which are included in the EU Treaty. Articles 34 to 36 of the Treaty of the functioning of the EU prohibit quantitative restrictions on imports, exports or goods in transit and all similar restrictive measures between EU Member States. All measures capable of hindering directly or indirectly such imports are considered to be quantitative restrictions. Additionally because the 28 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. Both in the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trade partners, EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

International trade data (t_ext)
International trade long-term indicators (t_ext_lti)

Database

Traditional international trade database access ((ComExt)(comext))
EU Trade Since 1988 By CPA_2008 (DS-057009)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Intra-EU statistical discrepancies

Intra-EU statistics of EU Member States are easily compared — in particular if the COMEXT source is used rather than national figures, since:

  • the data to be compared are drawn up on the basis of a broadly common methodology and common definitions;
  • the problem of the FOB and CIF valuations generally plays a smaller role in view of the geographical context and the structure of intra-Community trade;
  • given the rules for determining reference periods, time delays should not have a such a large impact — at least on annual results;
  • the trade partner for arrivals is always the EU Member State of consignment, not the country of origin of the goods.


Classification of products by activity (CPA) is a statistical classification of products and services obligatory for all EU Member States. CPA classifies products by activity in which they are produced. Products are transportable goods and services. The CPA is a product classification whose elements are related to activities as defined by NACE Rev. 2. Each product - whether it be a transportable or a non-transportable good or a service - is assigned to one single NACE Rev. 2 activity. The linkage to activities as defined by NACE Rev. 2 gives the CPA a structure parallel to that of NACE Rev. 2 at all levels distinguished by NACE Rev. 2.


In this article:

  • 1 billion = 1 000 000 000
  • 1 million = 1 000 000

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links

Notes

  1. From crisis to opportunity — putting citizens and companies on the path to prosperity — A better functioning internal market is a key ingredient for European growth’, European Commission, 2014.
  2. It can be difficult to interpret figures in absolute terms for individual EU Member States, and their trade in goods values must be interpreted with caution, particularly when considering the phenomenon of quasi-transit.