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EU Customs Union – unique in the world

The EU Customs Union is a unique example of an area where a number of countries apply a uniform system for handling goods (imported, exported and transiting) and implement a common set of rules (the Union Customs Code).

The EU Customs Union is managed on the ground by 28 national customs services acting as if they were one. The European Commission proposes EU customs legislation and monitors its implementation.

There are no customs duties at the EU Customs Union's internal borders. All goods circulate freely within the EU Customs Union, whether they are made in the EU or imported from outside.

The EU is one of the largest traders in the world

EU Customs handle a huge part of the world's international trade. The following figures demonstrate this in a number of areas.


Summary of key EU figures
(year 2013; 28 Member States; source: Eurostat and DG Taxation and Customs Union)

Total (Extra-EU trade)



Value (€)

€ 3.4 trillion

€ 1.7 trillion

€ 1.7 trillion

EU share in world trade (%)


(US = 16.2%,
China = 12.6%)

(US = 11.1%,
China = 14.7%)

Quantity of goods (tonnes)

2.2 billion

1.6 billion

0.6 billion

Number of Customs declarations

271 million

145 million for import, 108 million for export and 18 million for transit

(trillion = 1 x 1012, billion = 1 x 109)

The number of customs declarations (271 million in a year) is equivalent to 516 declarations a minute or 9 declarations a second.

The tonnage of goods traded each year (2.2 billion tonnes is equivalent to the weight of 53 average family cars being moved per second.

The customs value of those goods amounts to € 3.4 trillion. This is more than the total yearly retail sales in the EU!


Various means of carrying freight are used in EU trade

The most frequently used mode of transport in EU trade is maritime transport followed by air and road transport. These figures are based on value (year 2013; 28 Member States; source: Eurostat).

  • Import: sea = 54%, air = 18%, road = 13%
  • Export: sea = 47%, air = 28%, road = 20%