India-EU – international trade in goods statistics - Statistics Explained

India-EU – international trade in goods statistics

Data extracted in May 2018

Planned article update: May 2019

Among the EU's trading partners, India was the 10th largest for EU exports, and the 9th largest for EU imports in 2017.
In 2017, manufactured goods dominated both the exports of goods from the EU to India and imports from India to the EU, accounting for over 89 % of total exports and 83 % of total imports.
Among the EU Member States, the United Kingdom was the largest importer (EUR 8.0 billion) from India in 2017, while Germany was the largest exporter (EUR 10.7 billion) to India.

Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and India, 2008-2017

This article provides a picture of the trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and India. It analyses the type of goods exchanged between the two economies and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges.

This article is part of an online publication providing recent statistics on international trade in goods, covering information on the EU's main partners, main products traded, specific characteristics of trade as well as background information.

Full article


  • In 2016, India was the 14th largest exporter of goods in the world with a share of 2.1 % of world exports and the 9th largest importer with a share of 2.8 % of world imports.
  • Among EU's trading partners, India was the 10th largest partner for EU exports, and the 9th largest partner for EU imports in 2017.
  • EU trade balance with India, which had always been in surplus from 2008 to 2012, has since 2013 turned into a deficit reaching EUR 2.4 billion in 2017.
  • Manufactured goods dominate both the export of goods from the EU to India and the import of goods from India to the EU, accounting for over 89 % of the total exports and 83 % of total imports.
  • Among the EU Member States, the United Kingdom is the largest importer (EUR 8.0 billion in 2017) from India and 4th largest exporter (EUR 4.6 billion) to India and has the largest trade deficit with India (EUR 3.4 billion).
  • Germany is the largest exporter (EUR 10.7 billion) to India and 2nd largest importer (EUR 6.8 billion) from India and has the largest trade surplus with India (EUR 3.9 billion).

EU and India in world trade in goods

Figure 1a shows that the four largest exporters accounted for almost half of the world's exports. The largest is China (17 %) followed by the EU (16 %), the United States (12 %) and Japan (5 %). The same four accounted also for almost half of the world imports but in different order. Here the United States (18 %) leads, followed by the EU (15 %), China (12 %) and Japan (5 %).

Figure 1a: India's position among the world's largest traders 2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)

Figure 1b has some more detail, showing that India is the 14th largest exporter (EUR 235 billion, 2.1 %) in the world between Taiwan (EUR 253 billion, 2.3 %) and Thailand (EUR 193 billion, 1.7 %). In world imports India is the 9th largest importer (EUR 322 billion, 2.8 %) between Mexico (EUR 350 billion, 3.0 %) and Singapore (EUR 256 billion, 2.2 %).

Figure 1b: Top 25 importers and exporters in the world, 2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

Figure 2 focuses on the evolution of trade in the EU and India over the period 2007-2016. India's exports grew more rapidly than those of the EU especially between 2009 and 2013 when they peaked at 138 % above their 2007 level. Between 2013 and 2016 EU exports remained more or less at the same level while India's exports dropped. Growth of India's imports is very close to the growth of exports although in 2016 imports dropped slightly. The cover ratio (exports divided by imports ) for India was 73 % in 2016, indicating a substantial trade in goods deficit. Since 2009 the EU's imports have been growing less quickly than exports, which resulted in a cover ratio of more than 100 % (in other words a trade surplus) since 2013.

Figure 2: EU-28 and India evolution of trade (2007 = 100) and cover ratio, 2007-2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)

EU deficit for the fifth year in a row

Figure 3a shows India's trade compared to the top four trading partners of the EU which were the United States, China, Switzerland and Russia. These four made up 43 % of all exports from the EU and 48 % of all imports to the EU. There is more detail in figure 3b which shows that in 2017, India was the tenth largest destination for EU exports with a share of 2.2 % amounting to EUR 42 billion). This placed it between the United Arab Emirates (EUR 43 billion, 2.3 %) and Mexico (EUR 38 billion, 2.0 %). India was the ninth largest partner for EU imports with a share of 2.4 % amounting to EUR 44 billion. This placed it between South Korea (EUR 50 billion, 2.7 %) and Vietnam (EUR 37 billion, 2.0 %) .

Figure 3a: India's position among the EU's main partners, 2017
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

Figure 3b: Top 20 import and export partners of the EU, 2017
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

The EU had a trade surplus with India from 2007 to 2012 which turned into a trade deficit in 2013, reaching 2.4 billion in 2017 (see Figure 4). In this time span, trade between the two economies hit a low in 2009, but quickly recovered, peaking in 2011. It then fell somewhat and did not surpass the 2011 levels until 2017. Between 2008 and 2017 exports to India grew by EUR 10.4 billion while imports grew by EUR 14.5 billion.

Figure 4: Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and India, 2007-2017 (EUR billion )
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

EU trade with India largely dominated by manufactured goods

When breaking down imports and exports by SITC groups, the main categories driving the exports to and imports from India are ‘Machinery and vehicles’, ‘Chemicals’ and ‘Other manufactured goods’. Together these manufactured products accounted for around 89 % of the EU exports and 83 % of imports (see Figure 5). In exports from the EU to India, ‘Machinery and vehicles’ (42 %) was the largest group before ‘Other manufactured goods’ (33 %) while in imports from India, ‘Other manufactured goods’ (50 %) was almost three times as large as ‘Machinery and vehicles’ (18 %).

Figure 5: EU-28 exports to and imports from India by SITC group, 2008 and 2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Figure 6 shows the evolution of EU imports and exports by SITC group since 2007. The EU has trade deficits in 'Other manufactured goods', 'Chemicals', 'Food & drink' and 'Energy' and surpluses in ‘Machinery and vehicles’, 'Raw materials' and 'Other goods'. The highest surplus is in 'Machinery and vehicles' (EUR 9.9 billion) while the highest deficit is in 'Other manufactured goods (EUR 7.9 billion).

Figure 6: EU-28 imports, exports and trade balance with India by product group, 2008-2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Most traded goods: pearls and (semi-) precious stones

Figure 7 gives more details about the goods exchanged between the EU and India, showing the top 20 traded goods at a more detailed level (by SITC level 3). Those top 20 goods covered 45 % of total traded goods in 2017. Among the top 20 products eight belong to the ‘Machinery and transport equipment’ group and another eight to 'Other manufactured goods'. 'Pearls and (semi-) precious stones' were the most traded product followed by 'aircraft and associated equipment'.

Another interesting way to look at data is to investigate the export/import ratio of traded goods, in order to better identify the direction taken by flows and specialisation between the two areas. These ratios can be found in the right margin of Figure 7. For the top product, 'pearls and (semi-) precious stones', the ratio equals 308 meaning that the EU exports are three times higher than the EU imports. For 'aircraft and associated equipment' , with a ratio of 870, and 'measuring and other instruments', with a ratio of 815, these ratios are the highest two among the 20 products shown. This indicates exports from the EU to India dominate trade. The opposite is observed for some textile products (SITC 658, 842 and 845), footwear, seafood, and steel.

Figure 7: Most traded goods with India, top 20 of SITC level 3 products, 2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Germany is the Member State trading most with India

Figure 8a shows EU Member States' imports from India and the share of the partner India in national extra-EU imports in 2017. Table 8b provides similar information but concerning Member States' exports to India.

There are seven Member States whose imports from India were higher than EUR 3 billion: the United Kingdom (EUR 8.0 billion), Germany (EUR 6.8 billion), Italy (EUR 5.1 billion), Belgium (EUR 4.8 billion), France, the Netherlands (both EUR 4.2 billion) and Spain (EUR 3.7 billion). Together they accounted for 83 % of imports from India. The share of India in extra-EU imports was less than 3 % for all but four Member States. The exceptions were Malta (6.6 %), followed at some distance by Belgium, Portugal (both 3.8 %) and Italy (3.2 %).

Figure 8a: Imports from India by Member State, 2016
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

The same seven Member States that were the largest importers, were also the largest exporters to India but here Germany (EUR 10.7 billion) led followed by Belgium (EUR 8.0 billion), France (EUR 5.7 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 4.6 billion), Italy (EUR 3.6 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 2.2 billion) and Spain (EUR 1.3 billion). Their combined share in exports to India was 86 %. The share of India in extra-EU exports was less than 3 % for all Member States except Belgium, where it was 7.5 %.

Figure 8b: Exports to India by Member State, 2017
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Figure 8c shows that 11 Member States had a trade surplus with India in 2017, ranging from just EUR 6 million for Romania to EUR 3.9 billion for Germany. Belgium (EUR 3.2 billion) and France (EUR 1.4 billion) were the only other Member States with a trade surplus of more than EUR 1 billion. The remaining 17 Member States had a trade deficit, starting at EUR 40 million for Bulgaria to EUR 3.4 billion for the United Kingdom. Spain (EUR 2.4 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 2.0 billion) and Italy (EUR 1.6 billion) were the only other Member States with trade deficits higher than EUR 1 billion, while Poland (EUR 991 million) remained just below that.

Figure 8c: Trade balance with India by Member State, 2017 (EUR million)
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

EU data is taken from Eurostat's COMEXT database. COMEXT is the reference database for international trade in goods. 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 aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated via the Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process.

Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat. For extra-EU trade, the statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of customs declarations.

EU data are compiled according to Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 28 EU Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.

Data for the other major traders are taken from the Comtrade database of the United Nations. Data availability differs among countries, therefore Figure 1 shows the latest common available year for all the main traders. For the calculation of shares the world trade is defined as the sum of EU trade with non-EU countries (source: Eurostat) plus the international trade of non-EU countries (source: IMF Dots database).


According to the EU concepts and definitions, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-EU countries) do not record exchanges involving goods in transit, placed in a customs warehouse or given temporary admission (for trade fairs, temporary exhibitions, tests, etc.). This is known as ‘special trade’. The partner is the country of final destination of the goods for exports and the country of origin for imports.

Product classification

Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC). A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.

Unit of measure

Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (109) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in case of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.


Trade is an important indicator of Europe’s prosperity and place in the world. The bloc is deeply integrated into global markets both for the products it sources and the exports it sells. The EU trade policy is an important element of the external dimension of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ and is one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.

Because the 28 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively, both in the World Trade Organization, where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trading partners. This common policy enables them to speak with one voice in trade negotiations, maximising their impact in such negotiations. This is even more important in a globalised world in which economies tend to cluster together in regional groups.

The openness of the EU’s trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.

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International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (t_ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)
EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)