Turkey-EU - international trade in goods statistics

Data extracted in April 2018

Planned article update: April 2019

Among the EU's trading partners, Turkey was the fifth largest partner for EU exports in 2017, and the sixth largest for EU imports.

Among the EU Member States, Germany was the largest trading partner with Turkey, both for imports (EUR 14 billion) and exports (EUR 22 billion), in 2017.

In 2017, manufactured goods made up 81 % of EU exports to and 89 % of EU imports from Turkey.

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

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

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  • In 2016, Turkey was the 22nd largest exporter of goods in the world with a share of 1.2 % of world exports and the 14th largest importer with a share of 1.6 % of world imports.
  • In 2017, among the EU's trading partners, Turkey was the fifth largest partner for exports from the EU and the sixth largest partner for imports to the EU.
  • The EU's trade surplus with Turkey has fallen from a peak of EUR 27 billion in 2013 to EUR 15 billion in 2017.
  • Manufactured goods make up 81 % of EU exports to Turkey and 89 % of EU imports from Turkey.
  • In 2017, Germany was the EU's largest import (EUR 14 billion) and export (EUR 22 billion) partner with Turkey.
  • Germany also had the largest trade surplus (EUR 8 billion) with Turkey while Slovenia had the largest deficit (EUR 1.5 billion).

EU and Turkey in world trade in goods

Figure 1a shows that the four largest exporters accounted for almost half of the world exports in 2017. The largest is China (17 %), followed by the EU (16 %), the United States (12 %) and Japan (5 %). The same four also accounted for almost half of the world imports but in a different order. Here the United States (18 %) leads, followed by the EU (15 %), China (12 %) and Japan (5 %).

Figure 1a: The position of Turkey among the world's largest traders, 2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)

Figure 1b has some more details and shows Turkey was the 22nd largest exporter (EUR 129 billion, 1.2 %) in the world between Indonesia (EUR 131 billion, 1.2 %) and Norway (EUR 81 billion, 0.7 %). In imports Turkey ranks 14th (EUR 179 billion, 1.6 %) between Taiwan (EUR 209 billion, 1.8 %) and Thailand (EUR 177 billion, 1.5 %)<

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

Figure 2 focuses on the evolution of trade in the EU and Turkey over the period 2007-2016. From 2007 to 2012 imports and exports for both economies developed in similar fashion with a low point in 2009 followed by a recovery. Between 2012 and 2016 there were alternating years of growth and decline in both economies' imports and exports. Over the whole period 2007-2016, Turkish exports (+ 65 percentage points) grew 20 percentage points more than its imports (+ 45 percentage points) which helped to increase its cover ratio from 63 % to 72 %. Although the EU's exports (+ 41 percentage points) grew less than Turkish exports the EU's cover ratio went from 85 % in 2007 to 102 % in 2016 because its imports (+ 18 percentage points) increased far less than its exports.

Figure 2: Evolution of trade of the EU-28 and Turkey (2007 = 100) and cover ratio 2007 to 2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)

EU surplus with Turkey peaked in 2013

Figure 3 shows that, in 2017, Turkey had a share of 4.5 % in extra-EU exports (EUR 85 billion) and 3.8 % in extra-EU imports (EUR 70 billion). This meant it was the fifth largest partner for exports behind the United States (20 %), China (11 %), Switzerland (8 %) and Russia (5 %). In imports it ranked sixth behind China (20 %), the United States (14 %), Russia (8 %), Switzerland (6 %) and Norway (4 %).

Figure 3: The position of Turkey among the EU's main partners, 2017
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

The EU recorded a trade surplus with Turkey from 2008 to 2017 (see Figure 4). In this time span, trade between the two economies hit a low in 2009, but subsequently recovered and continued to grow. From 2009 to 2013 exports grew more strongly than imports resulting in a trade surplus peak of EUR 27 billion in 2013. After that, imports grew more strongly, causing the trade surplus to fall to EUR 11 billion in 2016 before recovering somewhat in 2017, when it stood at EUR 15 billion.

Figure 4: Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and Turkey, 2008-2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

Manufactured goods dominate trade with Turkey

When breaking down imports and exports by SITC groups, the main categories driving the exports to Turkey are 'Machinery and vehicles' (43 %), 'Other manufactured goods' (21 % ) and 'Chemicals' (17 %) in 2017 (Figure 5). Together these manufactured goods accounted for 81 % of exports in 2017. In imports the share of manufactured goods was 85 % but here 'Machinery and vehicles' (43 %) and 'Other manufactured goods' (42 % ) had almost equal shares. The share of 'Chemicals' (5 %) was much smaller than in exports.

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

Figure 6 shows the evolution of EU imports and exports by SITC group from 2008 to 2017. In 2017, the EU had a large trade deficit in 'Other manufactured goods' (EUR 11 billion) and a smaller deficit in 'Food & drink' (EUR 1.7 billion). In 'Chemicals' (EUR 11 billion) and 'Machinery and vehicles' (EUR 6 billion) the EU had large trade surpluses . The trade surpluses in 'Raw materials' (EUR 3.6 billion), 'Other goods' (EUR 3.5 billion) and 'Energy' (EUR 2.7 billion) were much smaller.

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

Most traded goods: motor cars and vehicles

Figure 7 gives more details about the goods exchanged between the EU and Turkey, showing the top 20 traded goods at a more detailed level (by SITC level 3). Those top 20 goods covered almost half of total traded goods in 2017. Half of the products among the top 20 belong to the 'Machinery & vehicles' group, five to 'Other manufactured goods', two to 'Chemicals' and one each from 'Raw materials', 'Energy' and Other 'goods'.

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. For the top product, 'motor cars and vehicles' the ratio of 76 indicates that the value of EU exports is equal to 76 % of the value of imports. For the second product 'motor vehicle parts' the ratio of 137 shows the reverse: exports are higher than imports. Both ratios are still relatively close to 100 indicating substantial trade flows in both directions. There are also products with very low ratios such as 'articles of apparel of textile fabrics', 'women's clothes' and 'men's or boys' clothes' with ratios of 8, 11 and 12 respectively. Here the trade flow consists mostly of imports into the EU. Examples of very high ratios are found in 'ferrous waste and scrap' and 'non-monetary gold'.

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

Turkey important trade partner for Bulgaria

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

There were three Member States whose imports from Turkey in 2017 were higher than EUR 8 billion: Germany (EUR 13.9 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 8.4 billion) and Italy (EUR 8.3 billion). More than one fifth of Bulgaria's extra-EU imports (21 %) came from Turkey. Slovenia (19 %) and Romania (16 %) also had high shares while all other Member States had shares below 6 %.

Figure 8a: Imports from Turkey by Member State, 2017
Source: Eurostat DS-018995

Germany was also the largest exporter (EUR 21.8 billion) to Turkey followed by Italy (EUR 10.1 billion) and the United Kingdom (EUR 8.4 billion). Almost a quarter of Bulgaria's extra-EU exports (23 %) were destined for Turkey. Greece (15 %) and Romania (14 %) also had high shares while all other Member States had shares below 9 %.

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

Table 8c shows that nine Member States had a trade deficit with Turkey in 2017, ranging from EUR 75 million for Croatia to EUR 1.5 billion for Slovenia. The remaining 19 Member States had a trade surplus, starting at EUR 64 million for the United Kingdom to EUR 7.9 billion for Germany. The Netherlands (EUR 2.7 billion) and Italy (EUR 1.8 billion) were the only other Member States with a surplus exceeding EUR 1 billion.

Figure 8c: Trade balance with Turkey 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).

Methodology 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 block 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)