The EU in the world - international trade

Data extracted in May 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2018.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on Eurostat’s publication The EU in the world 2016.

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.

Figure 1: International trade in goods and services, 2005 and 2014
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and (nama_10_gdp) and the World Bank (World Development Indicators)
Table 1: EU-28 International trade in goods by partner, 2004 and 2014
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)
Figure 2: Share of EU-28 as the destination of exports of goods by G20 partners, 2004 and 2014
(% of all exports)
Source: the United Nations (Comtrade)
Figure 3: Share of EU-28 as the origin of imports of goods by G20 partners, 2004 and 2014
(% of all imports)
Source: the United Nations (Comtrade)
Table 2: EU-28 international trade in services by partner, 2010 and 2014
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (bop_its6_det)
Figure 4: EU-28 International exports and imports of services by main partners, 2014
(% share of extra-EU-28 exports and imports)
Source: Eurostat (bop_its6_det)

Main statistical findings

Trade intensity

In 2014 trade in goods and services made up close to a third of the EU-28’s GDP

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 South Korea and Saudi Arabia 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 %; 2013 data) among the G20 members, higher only than that in Argentina (29.3 %) and Brazil (25.8 %). While trade in goods dominates international trade, trade in services has grown strongly: trade in services was equivalent to 14.8 % of GDP in India, 14.6 % in Saudi Arabia and reached 15.7 % of GDP in South Korea.

Comparing 2005 with 2014, the ratio of trade in goods and services to GDP increased notably in South Korea (+ 24.8 %) and to a smaller extent in Turkey, Mexico and South Africa (all over 10 %). Conversely, the largest falls in this ratio were observed in Australia (– 19.0 %), China (– 15.8 %, 2013 data), the United States (– 7.5 %, 2013 data) and Canada (– 5.9 %), reflecting faster growth in GDP than in trade between these two years.

Trade in goods

The EU-28 ran a trade surplus for goods equal to EUR 11.1 billion in 2014. Table 1 shows the flows and balance of trade in goods for the EU-28 with the other G20 members. The EU-28 ran by far its largest trade surplus in goods with the United States in 2014 (EUR 102.3 billion) followed by Australia (EUR 20.4 billion) and Turkey (EUR 20.3 billion). At the other end of the scale, it recorded its largest trade deficit in goods with China (EUR 137.5 billion), followed by Russia (EUR 79.2 billion).

Between 2004 and 2014, the EU-28’s trade balance for goods with Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia 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, while the deficits with Japan and Indonesia contracted. The EU-28’s trade surplus for goods with Australia, South Africa, Turkey, Australia, the United States and Mexico increased between 2004 and 2014, while that with Canada contracted.

Around 45 % of the goods exported from Russia were destined for the EU-28, while 41 % of the goods imported by Russia originated in the EU-28

Figures 2 and 3 show the importance of the EU-28 as a trading partner for the other G20 members in terms of international trade in goods. Some 45.1 % of all goods exported from Russia and 43.5 % of those exported from Turkey in 2014 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. Compared with 2004, the EU-28’s role as a destination of traded goods decreased in all but two G20 countries (Canada and Mexico). The largest decreases were recorded in South Africa (– 16.6 pp) and Turkey (– 15.4 pp).

The EU-28 was the source of more than one fifth of all goods imported into Turkey, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Brazil in 2014 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. Compared with 2004, the EU’s importance as a source of imports decreased in all G20 members, except in Mexico (+ 1.0 pp) and South Korea (+ 0.1 pp). The largest decreases were recorded in South Africa (– 12.9 pp) and in Turkey (– 12.9 pp)

Trade in services

The EU-28 was the world’s largest exporter and importer of services in 2014

The EU-28 was the world’s largest exporter and importer of services in 2014, with a trade surplus of EUR 162.9 billion. The EU-28 had trade surpluses in services in 2014 with all the G20 members listed in Table 2, except Turkey (note that no data are available for Saudi Arabia and South Korea). A relatively high share of the EU-28’s trade in services was with the United States, which produced a surplus of EUR 6.6 billion in 2014. The EU-28’s largest surplus for trade in services, however, was recorded with Russia: EUR 16.5 billion. Between 2010 and 2014 the EU’s trade surpluses increased with all G20 members (except Brazil) while trade deficits were either resorbed (United States, India) or reduced (Turkey).

Figure 4 analyses the EU-28’s trading partners for services in 2014. Both in terms of exports and imports, the G20 members accounted for around half of the EU-28 trade in services. On the export side, the United States (25.8 %) was the largest trading partner for the EU-28 for services, followed by China and Russia. In terms of imports, the EU-28’s main trading partners for services were the United States (31.6 %), China and Turkey.

Data sources and availability

The statistical data in this article were extracted between February and May 2016.

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