The EU in the world - international trade

Data extracted in March 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2016.
Share of EU-28 as the destination of exports of goods by G20 partners (% share of all exports)
Source: Eurostat (for more information see figure 3 below)
The infographic shows EU‑28 as well as the two G20 members with the highest values and the two with the lowest values. Note that the size of the symbols does not show a precise representation of the underlying data values, but illustrates the highest and lowest values.
Figure 1: Trade integration, 2003 and 2013 (1)
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (bop_q_eu) and (nama_10_gdp) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)
Table 1: Trade in goods and services, 2013 (1)
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (bop_q_eu) and (nama_10_gdp) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)
Table 2: EU-28 trade in goods by partner, 2003 and 2013
(EUR million)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)
Figure 2: Share of G20 trading partners for EU-28 exports and imports of goods, 2013
(% share of extra-EU-28 exports and imports)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)
Figure 3: Share of EU-28 as the destination of exports of goods by G20 partners (1)
(% share of all exports)
Source: the United Nations (Comtrade)
Figure 4: Share of EU-28 as the origin of imports of goods by G20 partners (1)
(% share of all imports)
Source: the United Nations (Comtrade)
Table 3: EU-28 trade in services with selected G20 partner countries, 2008 and 2013
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat (bop_its_ybk)
Figure 5: Selected G20 trading partners for EU-28 exports and imports of services, 2013 (1)
(% share of extra-EU-28 exports and imports)
Source: Eurostat (bop_its_ybk)

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on Eurostat’s publication The EU in the world 2015.

The article focuses on international trade in the European Union (EU) and in the 15 non-EU members of the Group of Twenty (G20). It covers key trade statistics for both goods and services and gives an insight into the EU trading patterns in comparison with the major economies in the rest of the world, its counterparts in the so-called Triad — Japan and the United States — and the BRICS composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Main statistical findings

Trade in goods and services as a share of GDP

The EU-28 recorded a trade surplus for both goods and services in 2013

The level of international trade relative to overall economic activity (the ratio of traded goods and services to GDP) may be expected to be considerably higher for relatively small countries that are more integrated in the global economy as a result of not producing a full range of goods and services, as can be seen, for example, with Saudi Arabia and South Korea in Figure 1. By contrast, the United States reported the second lowest ratio of international trade (shown here as the sum of exports and imports of goods and services) to GDP (30.0 %) in 2013 among the G20 members, higher only than that in Brazil (27.0 %). While trade in goods dominates international trade, trade in services has grown strongly: trade in services was equivalent to 14.6 % of GDP in India and reached 16.2 % of GDP in South Korea.

Comparing 2008 with 2013, the ratio of trade in goods and services to GDP increased notably in Mexico, Turkey and the EU-28 and to a smaller extent in South Korea and the United States. Elsewhere this ratio fell, with China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia reporting the largest falls, reflecting faster growth in GDP than in trade between these two years.

Relative to GDP, Saudi Arabia recorded by far the largest international trade surplus (goods and services combined) in 2013 among the G20 members, its large surplus in goods outweighing its deficit in services by an amount equivalent to 21.1 % of GDP (see Table 1). Russia (5.9 % of GDP) and South Korea (5.6 % of GDP) recorded the next largest trade surpluses, followed by China, the EU-28 and Argentina; the EU-28 recorded a surplus for both goods and services. At the other end of the scale, Turkey’s large goods deficit outweighed its smaller surplus for services to produce a total deficit equivalent to 6.9 % of GDP, larger in relative terms than that for India (-4.9 %).

Trade in goods

The EU-28 ran a trade surplus for goods equal to EUR 54.6 billion in 2013. Table 2 shows the flows and balance of trade in goods for the EU-28 with the other G20 members. In 2013, the EU-28 had relatively large trade deficits with China and Russia, while its largest surplus was with the United States. Between 2003 and 2013, the EU-28’s trade balance for goods with Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and South Korea developed from a deficit into a surplus, whereas this situation was reversed with India. During the same period, the EU-28’s trade deficit for goods with Russia and China increased substantially, more than doubling, while the deficits with Japan and Indonesia contracted. The EU-28’s trade surplus for goods with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Australia, the United States and Mexico increased between 2003 and 2013, while that with Canada contracted.

Close to three fifths of all EU-28 exports of goods in 2013 were destined for G20 members, most notably the United States, China and Russia

Figure 2 analyses the importance of the other G20 members for the EU-28’s trade in goods. Close to three fifths (56.0 %) of all EU-28 exports of goods in 2013 were destined for G20 members, most notably the United States (16.6 % share), China (8.5 %) and Russia (6.9 %). The EU-28’s main export market outside of the G20 was Switzerland which was the destination for 9.8 % of the EU-28’s exports. Collectively, the G20 members provided just over three fifths (60.5 %) of the EU-28’s imports of goods, with China (16.6 %), Russia (12.3 %) and the United States (11.6 %) the main origins; Switzerland (5.6 %) and Norway (5.4 %) provided similar shares of the EU-28’s imports.

Figures 3 and 4 show the reverse situation, namely the importance of the EU-28 as a trading partner for the other G20 members in terms of international trade in goods; data are available for either 2013 or 2014. Some 46 % of all goods exported from Russia were destined for the EU-28, whereas this was the case for less than one tenth of the goods exported from Indonesia, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia or Saudi Arabia. The EU-28 was the source of more than one fifth of all goods imported into Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey and more than two fifths of goods imported into Russia; the EU-28 supplied less than one tenth of all goods imported into Japan and Indonesia.

Trade in services

The EU-28 was the world’s largest exporter and importer of services in 2013

The EU-28 was the world’s largest exporter and importer of services in 2013, with a trade surplus of EUR 173.2 billion. The EU-28 had trade surpluses in services in 2013 with all the G20 members listed in Table 3; note that no data are available for those G20 members that are not shown. A relatively high share of the EU-28’s trade in services was with the United States, and the exports and imports combined to produce a surplus of EUR 12.4 billion in 2013. The EU-28’s trade in services with Russia produced a larger surplus, EUR 14.7 billion. Between 2008 and 2013 the EU’s surpluses with all G20 members expanded, most notably with the United States.

The analysis of the EU-28’s trading partners shown in Figure 5 for services can be compared with the similar analysis for goods (see Figure 2). The importance of the United States as a trading partner for the EU-28 for services is notably higher than it was for goods, whereas the reverse was true for China and Russia. Among countries outside of the G20, Switzerland was an important partner for trade in services as it was the destination for 12.1 % of the EU-28’s exports of services and the origin for 12.2 % of the EU-28’s imports in 2013: as a destination for exports this was just below the combined share for Russia, China and Japan, while for imports it was larger than the combined share for the same three G20 members plus India.

Data sources and availability

The statistical data in this article were extracted during March 2015.

The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes global — standards, for example, the IMF’s standards for balance of payments statistics. Although most data are based on international concepts and definitions there may be certain discrepancies in the methods used to compile the data.

EU data

Most if not all of the indicators presented for the EU have been drawn from Eurobase, Eurostat’s online database. Eurobase is updated regularly, so there may be differences between data appearing in this article and data that is subsequently downloaded.

G20 members from the rest of the world

For the 15 non-EU G20 members, the data presented have been extracted from the World Bank and the United Nations. For some of the indicators a range of international statistical sources are available, each with their own policies and practices concerning data management (for example, concerning data validation, correction of errors, estimation of missing data, and frequency of updating). In general, attempts have been made to use only one source for each indicator in order to provide a comparable analysis between the members.


There are two main sources of international trade statistics: the first is balance of payments statistics which register all the transactions of an economy with the rest of the world: the second is international trade in goods which provides detailed information on the value and quantity of international trade.

The current account of the balance of payments provides information on international transactions in goods and services, as well as income (from employment and investment) and current transfers. For all these transactions, the balance of payments registers the value of credits and debits. A credit is an inflow in relation to the provision of goods, services, income and current transfers and is similar to an export. A debit is an outflow made for the acquisition of goods, services, income and current transfers and is similar to an import.

See also

Further Eurostat information



International trade data (ext)
International trade long-term indicators (ext_lti)
EU trade by Member State, by partner and by product group (ext_lti_ext)
Extra-EU trade by partner (ext_lt_maineu)
International trade detailed data (detail)
Traditional international trade database access (ComExt) (comext)
International trade in services, geographical breakdown (bop_its)
International trade in services - Data for the Eurostat yearbook (bop_its_ybk)
Balance of payments statistics and International investment positions (bop_q)
European Union balance of payments (bop_q_eu)
Main GDP aggregates (nama_10_ma)
GDP and main components (output, expenditure and income) (nama_10_gdp)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg International trade: tables and figures

External links

  • European Commission
  • United Nations
  • World Bank