USA-EU - international trade in goods statistics

Data extracted in March 2018.

Planned article update: April 2019.

Highlights

In 2016, the United States was the largest importer of goods in the world with a share of 18 % of total world imports, immediately followed by the EU (15 %).

Among the EU's trading partners, the United States was the largest partner for EU exports of goods in 2017, and the second largest for EU imports of goods.

In 2017, among EU Member States, the United Kingdom was the largest importer of goods from the United States and Germany was the largest exporter of goods to the United States.

Imports, exports and trade balance in goods between the EU and the United States, 2007-2017

This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods statistics between the European Union (EU) and the United States. It analyses the type of goods exchanged between the two economies and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges. For further information about total EU trade, see the article Extra-EU trade in goods.

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

EU and United States in world trade in goods

Figure 1 shows that the five largest exporters account for more than half of the world exports of goods (54 %). The United States is the third largest exporter, accounting for 12 % of world exports, preceded by China (17 %) and the EU (16 %) and followed by Japan (5 %) and Hong Kong (4 %). For imports of goods the same five countries account for 54 % of world imports of goods although in slightly different order. United States (18 %) is the largest followed by the EU (15 %), China (12 %), Japan (5 %) and Hong Kong (4 %).

Figure 2 focuses on the evolution of trade in goods in the EU and the United States over the period 2007-2016. The import and export trends for both countries are fairly similar from 2007 to 2014 with a low in 2009 and recovering afterwards. After 2014 both exports and especially imports for the United States have grown faster than those of the EU. Therefore the cover ratio (exports divided by imports ) for the United States which had grown from 58 % in 2007 to 68 % in 2013 fell to 65 % in 2016, indicating a substantial trade in goods deficit. The EU also had a trade deficit until 2013 although much lower than the United States. However since 2009, the EU's exports have consistently been growing more than its exports. Consequently it has had a trade surplus since 2013 which in 2016 translated to a cover ratio of 102 %.

Figure 1: The position of the United States among the world's largest traders in goods, 2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)
Figure 2: Evolution of trade in goods of the EU-28 and the United States (2007 = 100) and cover ratio (%), 2007-2016
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)

EU trade in goods surplus with USA peaked in 2015

Figure 3 shows that in 2017, the United States had a share of 20 % in extra-EU exports of goods (EUR 375 billion) which meant it was the largest partner for exports from the EU with almost twice the exports of China (EUR 198 billion, 11 %) . Switzerland (EUR 151 billion, 8 %), Russia (EUR 86 billion, 5 %) and Turkey (EUR 85 billlion, 5 %) completed the top 5. The United States (EUR 255 billion, 14 %) was the second largest partner for EU imports of goods after China (EUR 375 billion, 20 %) and before Russia (EUR 145 billion, 8 %), Switzerland (EUR 110 billion, 6 %) and Norway (EUR 77 billion, 4 %).

The EU had a trade in goods surplus with the United States from 2008 to 2017. In 2009 export, imports and the deficit all fell. After the global financial and economic crisis both imports from and especially exports to the United States quickly recovered and consequently the EU's trade surplus steadily increased, peaking at EUR 122 billion in 2015. It dropped to EUR 113 billion in 2016 but bounced back to EUR 120 billion in 2017 (see Figure 4).

Figure 3: The position of the United States among the EU's main partners for trade in goods, 2017
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)
Figure 4: Imports, exports and trade in goods balance between the EU and the United States, 2008-2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_maineu)

Manufactured goods dominate trade with the United States

When breaking down imports and exports by SITC groups, the main categories driving exports to and imports from United States are ‘Machinery and vehicles’ (SITC 7), ‘Chemicals’ (SITC 5) and ‘Other manufactured goods’ (SITC 6&8). Together these manufactured goods accounted for 89 % of the EU exports and 84 % of imports (see Figure 5). In 2017, in exports from the EU to United States, 'Machinery and vehicles' share (44 %) was equal to that of the next two groups: 'Chemicals' and 'Other manufactured goods' (each 22 %). In imports from United States these three groups had shares that were slightly lower than for imports. This was also the case for 'Food & drink' while the opposite was true for 'Raw materials', 'Energy' and 'Other goods'.

Figure 6 shows the evolution of EU imports and exports by SITC group since 2007. During this whole period, the EU had trade surpluses with the United States in the three largest groups: ‘Machinery and vehicles’, 'Chemicals' and 'Other manufactured goods' as well as in 'Food & drink'. In 'Raw materials' and 'Other goods' the EU had trade deficit with the United States. In 'Energy' the balance changed between surplus to deficit ending with a small deficit in 2017.

Figure 5: EU-28 exports to and imports from the United States by SITC group, 2008 and 2017 (EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat DS-018995
Figure 6: EU-28 imports, exports and trade balance with the United States by SITC 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 the United States, showing the top 20 traded goods at SITC level 3. Those top 20 goods covered around 58 % of total traded goods in 2017. Eleven products among the top 20 belong to the ‘machinery and vehicles’ group, four to 'chemicals' and 'three to other manufactured products'. The two remaining products were petroleum and alcoholic beverages.

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, cars, the ratio equals 592 meaning that the EU exports to the United States are almost six times as high as EU imports from the United States . For the next product, aircrafts, the ratios of 64 indicates that the EU had a trade deficit with United States with exports being only 64 % of imports. Given the large overall trade surplus it is not surprising that 17 of the 20 products shown have cover ratios above 100, the largest being 675 for alcoholic beverages

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

Germany trading most with the United States

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

There are five Member States whose imports of goods from the United States in 2017 were higher than EUR 20 billion: the United Kingdom (EUR 54 billion), Germany (EUR 46 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 35 billion), France (EUR 29 billion) and Belgium (EUR 25 billion). Together they accounted for almost three quarters of imports from the United States. The United States was also an important partner for Ireland as more than half of all Irish imports of goods from outside the EU originated in the United States. Other high shares were mainly found in western EU Member States, while for southern and eastern EU Member States import shares from the United States in total extra-EU imports were smaller.

In 2017, German exports of goods to the United States (EUR 112 billion) were more than double those of the United Kingdom (EUR 52 billion) which was second. Italy (EUR 40 billion), France (EUR 34 billion) and Ireland (EUR 33 billion) completed the top 5 which accounted for 72 % of all EU exports to the United States. Exports of goods to the United States as a share of total extra-EU exports were very high in Ireland (56 %), while they were between 10 % and 20 % in a majority of Member States.

Table 8c shows that only six Member States had a trade in goods deficit with the United States in 2017. These were the Netherlands (EUR 15 billion), Belgium (EUR 7 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 2 billion), Luxembourg (EUR 779 million), Malta (EUR 93 million) and Cyprus (EUR 35 million) The remaining 22 Member States had a trade in goods surplus, starting at EUR 15 million for Romania to EUR 66 billion for Germany. Italy (EUR 25 billion) and Ireland (EUR 18 billion) were the only other Member States whose trade surplus was larger than EUR 6 billion.


Table 8a: Imports of goods from the United States by Member State, 2017
Source: Eurostat DS-018995
Table 8b: Exports of goods to the United States by Member State, 2017
Source: Eurostat DS-018995
Table 8c: Trade in goods balance with the United States 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 the event 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.

Context

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)