Archive:EU trade and investment statistics with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Data extracted in April 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: September 2017

This article analyses recent statistics on trade in goods and services between the European Union (EU) and the 10 member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as foreign direct investments (FDI) flows between the EU and the ASEAN member states.

In 2014, EU imports from ASEAN represented 6 % of total extra-EU imports and EU exports to ASEAN amounted to 5 % of total extra-EU exports.

The EU has recorded deficits in trade in goods with the ASEAN countries since 2000. In 2014 the deficit was EUR 22 billion, a substantial rise compared with the previous year. The main products imported from the ASEAN countries include electronic equipment, covering computers and consumer items, clothing and footwear, pharmaceuticals, crude rubber, palm oil and furniture. The EU exported mainly machinery and transport equipment including aircraft, alongside pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to ASEAN countries.

For trade in services, the EU recorded a surplus from 2005 to 2012, recording a EUR 4.3 billion surplus in 2012. Of the major ASEAN partner countries, only Thailand and the Philippines recorded a deficit in that year.

In 2012, EU foreign direct investment outflows declined sharply (with a disinvestment of close to EUR 10 billion) while inflows increased significantly. Inward and outward FDI stocks grew since 2008. Singapore is the main investment partner.

Figure 1: Development of EU-28 exports and imports of goods to/from ASEAN, 2004-2014 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Figure 2: EU-28 trade in goods with ASEAN countries, 2014 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Table 1: EU-28 exports and imports of goods to/from ASEAN countries, 2004 & 2012-2014 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat ((DS-018995)
Figure 3: EU-28 exports of goods to ASEAN by SITC product groups, 2014 (% of total) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Figure 4: EU-28 imports of goods from ASEAN by SITC product groups, 2014 (% of total) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Table 2: EU-28 exports of goods to ASEAN countries by SITC product groups, 2014 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Table 3: EU-28 imports of goods from ASEAN countries by SITC product groups, 2014 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (DS-018995)
Table 4: EU-28 trade in services with ASEAN, 2008-2012 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (bop_its_det)
Table 5: EU-28 trade in services with selected ASEAN countries, 2012 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (bop_its_det)
Table 6: EU-28 FDI outflows and inflows to/from ASEAN countries, 2008-2012 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (bop_fdi_flow_r2)
Table 7: EU-28 outward and inward FDI stocks in/from ASEAN countries, 2008-2012 (EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (bop_fdi_pos_r2)

Main statistical findings

EU-28 trade and investment with ASEAN countries - Goods trade with ASEAN countries rebounded after the crisis

After the decrease in 2009 that followed the global financial and economic crisis, EU trade with ASEAN countries increased both for exports and imports.

Figure 1 shows total trade in goods. EU imports were always higher than EU exports to ASEAN countries, and both flows showed a parallel trend over the 11 year period. From 2004 until 2006 the deficit increased and it peaked in 2006 at EUR 31 billion. Over the following 2 years the deficit dropped by 14 % and 24 %, reaching a low of EUR 18 billion in 2009. The EU trade deficit with ASEAN countries then increased by 32 % from 2009 to 2010, and more modestly (+4 %) in 2011, then dropped again over the next 2 years (–30 % and –14 %) to EUR 15 billion in 2013 – the lowest value since 2000. The deficit stood at EUR 22 billion in 2014, an increase of 46 %. Despite this increased deficit in 2014, the deficit as a proportion of total trade has been declining over the long term.

EU’s trade deficit with the ASEAN countries in 2014

The EU’s overall deficit with the ASEAN countries in 2014 is the result of deficits with Vietnam (EUR 15.8 billion), Thailand (EUR 6 billion), Malaysia (EUR 5.7 billion), Indonesia (EUR 4.9 billion), Cambodia (EUR 2.7 billion), and Laos (EUR 0.04 billion) (Figure 2) partially offset by surpluses with Singapore (EUR 11.7 billion), the Philippines (EUR 1.1 billion), Brunei (EUR 0.4 billion) and Myanmar (EUR 0.1 billion). In 2004, the only ASEAN country with which the EU had a positive trade balance was Brunei; in 2006 a trade surplus was also achieved with Singapore; in 2012 with Myanmar; and in 2013 the Philippines were also added to the list of countries where EU exports exceeded imports.

Among the ASEAN countries, Table 1 shows that Singapore recorded the highest level of exports from the EU in 2014, at EUR 28 billion, amounting to nearly 36 % of the ASEAN total, followed by Malaysia (EUR 14 billion), Thailand (EUR 12 billion) and Indonesia (9 billion). Although they represented a smaller share of EU trade, Laos (+53 %), Myanmar (+43 %) and Cambodia (+25 %) recorded the fastest growth of EU exports between 2013 and 2014.

Vietnam was the main partner for imports to the EU in 2014 at EUR 22 billion, under a fifth of the ASEAN total, followed by Malaysia (EUR 19.7 billion), Thailand (EUR 18.5 billion) and Singapore (EUR 16.6 billion). Myanmar with 76 % and Brunei with 68 % both had the fastest growth in EU imports between 2013 and 2014.

Machinery and transport equipment the main component in EU/ASEAN trade

Machinery and transport equipment accounted for more than half of EU exports to the ASEAN countries in 2014. Included in this group are medical apparatus, aircraft, and oil and gas extraction machinery (Figure 3). The next group was chemicals at 15 %, mainly pharmaceuticals. The most important component of manufactured articles (10 % of the total) was iron and steel.

Figure 4 shows that machinery and transport equipment constituted again the largest element in EU imports from ASEAN countries in 2014, accounting for 44 % of the total. This group comprised of electronic equipment, computers and phones. Miscellaneous manufactured articles, mainly clothing and footwear, formed the second largest group at 23 %. Chemicals, largely organic chemicals and pharmaceutical products, made up 9 % of the total. Food imports, at 8 % of the total, covered largely fish, coffee and fruit. In manufactured goods, the main components of the 6 % share of the total were non-metallic mineral manufactures and manufactures of metal products. Crude rubber represented the main element of the ‘other’ category.

The main exports: Machinery and transport equipment and Pharmaceuticals

As Table 2 illustrates, the patterns of trade vary markedly between the ASEAN countries. It shows that four of the countries (Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos), represented 2 % of EU exports of goods to ASEAN countries in 2014. In contrast, the major trading partners were Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia with shares of EU exports of 36 %, 18 %, 16 % and 12 % respectively.

EU exports to Singapore totaled EUR 28 billion in 2014. Machinery and transport equipment accounted for almost half and includes electrical machinery equipment and power-generating machinery and equipment. Other large categories were petroleum and petroleum products and materials. Machinery and transport equipment accounted for more than half the EUR 13.9 billion exports to Malaysia. The main component within this group is electrical machinery, an area covering medical apparatus among others. Other main components constituted again other transport equipment and machinery specialised for particular industries.

There was a similar pattern in the EUR 12.3 billion of exports to Thailand. Exports of machinery and transport equipment accounted for almost half the total. The main components were general industrial machinery and equipment and general electrical machinery. Exports to Indonesia amounted to EUR 9.3 billion with machinery and transport equipment exports focused on other transport equipment and specialised machinery for specific industries. Indonesia however differed from the other countries in that pharmaceuticals did not represent the main element of chemical imports; organic chemicals emerged as the major component. The EUR 6.7 billion of exports to Philippines and EUR 6.1 billion to Vietnam showed similar patterns with machinery and transport equipment dominant but with a significant contribution from pharmaceuticals. The other four countries, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar shared EUR 1.4 billion of exports from the EU in 2014.

More diversity in EU imports from ASEAN

Table 3 indicates that there was much more diversity in the patterns of imports to the EU from the ASEAN countries. In 2014, Vietnam at EUR 22 billion was the main source of EU imports. EU imports from Vietnam represent 22 % of the ASEAN imports and this share has doubled since 2010. Its outputs are concentrated on machinery and transport equipment and miscellaneous manufactured articles such as clothing and footwear.

Malaysia, the second largest source of imports at EUR 20 billion, was a major supplier of electronic equipment and machinery, covering computers, telecommunications and electronic assemblies. However, crude rubber and palm oil also represented important elements.

Thailand’s total import of EUR 18 billion included EUR 0.5 billion of crude rubber (one fifth of EU crude rubber imports from ASEAN), but there were more significant amounts of electronic items as well as road motor vehicles coming from the southeast Asian plants. EU imports from Singapore amounted to EUR 16 billion, the fourth largest value among the ASEAN countries in 2014. These imports showed a slightly different pattern with pharmaceuticals and organic chemicals having a significant position, close to the share of machinery and transport equipment which constituted the main goods imported by EU.

Imports from Indonesia at EUR 14 billion saw coffee and fish added to crude rubber and palm oil as major items. Machinery and transport equipment, while important, is not as dominant as for the other countries, but television and audio equipment make up the largest element. Miscellaneous manufactures, covering furniture, clothing and footwear, have more weight.

The main concentration of the Philippines’ EUR 5.7 billion-worth of EU imports is television and audio equipment, but also some palm oil. Of the other countries, Cambodia’s EUR 3.0 billion mainly concerned clothing and footwear. The remaining countries, Brunei, Laos and Myanmar contributed less than EUR 0.7 billion in total.

Other business services the key to the EU’s surplus in services

As Table 4 shows, the EU has recorded an increasing surplus in trade in services with the ASEAN countries from 2008 to 2011 (a 79 % increase), while in 2012 the surplus decreased by 5 %. Deficits on transportation and travel were offset by the surplus on other services. In 2012, there was an overall surplus of EUR 4 billion, with a EUR 10 billion surplus on other services and a deficit of EUR 6 billion on transportation and travel. The deficit on transportation reflected deficits for both sea and air transport, while the deficit on travel applied to both business and personal travel. The surplus on other business services arose in financial services, computer services, royalties and license fees, merchanting and technical consultancy.

Table 5 shows the trade in services for selected individual ASEAN countries. Again, Singapore is the EU’s major trading partner, accounting for the lion’s share of both credits and debits, particularly for ‘other services’. Largely the same pattern emerges for the selected ASEAN countries with a deficit for transportation and travel being offset by a surplus for other services. Exceptions are Thailand and the Philippines, where there are overall deficits of EUR 2.5 billion and EUR 0.16 billion respectively in 2012. These deficits originated mainly from personal travel, which underlines the importance of the tourist market for the Thai economy. In contrast, for Singapore tourism is less important and other services play a critical role leading to a EUR 4.5 billion surplus for the EU. Royalties and license fees were a particularly important area for credits with Singapore. With the other countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, the EU recorded surpluses for trade in services. Again the travel and tourism market is important for Indonesia where the EU had a EUR 0.6 billion deficit for travel, especially in the personal travel category. However, this was offset by a substantial surplus of over EUR 2.9 billion in other services that EU achieved with these two countries.

The EU surplus in trade in services with Malaysia was the lowest among the selected ASEAN countries (EUR 1.1 billion), the surplus for other services largely outweighing deficits both for travel and transportation.

Singapore: the EU’s main ASEAN FDI partner

As Table 6 illustrates, the figures for FDI are very volatile between years, varying from an outflow to the ASEAN countries of EUR 29.2 billion in 2008 to a disinvestment of EUR  9.9 billion in 2012. This withdrawal of direct investment happened mainly in three countries: Singapore (EU’s main FDI partner among the ASEAN countries), Malaysia and the Philippines, with EUR – 8.9 billion, EUR – 4.4 billion and EUR – 0.2 billion respectively. For Indonesia, although the FDI outflows also decreased, the net value was positive. In Thailand, FDI from the EU increased to EUR 0.7 billion in 2012. Thailand also recorded large FDI inflows to the EU in 2012 with EUR 1.5 billion: it was the third largest ASEAN investor.

Over the period from 2008 to 2012, FDI inflows to the EU from Singapore reached a peak of EUR 10.6 billion in 2010. The following year saw a decrease to EUR 4.4 billion and the 2012 figure showed again an increase to EUR 5.8 billion.

From 2008 to 2011, EU outward FDI stocks in the ASEAN countries increased every year, reaching EUR 205 billion in 2011. In 2012 there was a 7 % decrease (Table 7) in EU outward FDI stocks, which occurred in most of the ASEAN countries, with a reduction of EUR 6.2 billion in Singapore. Singapore was the ASEAN country which received the greatest share of EU outward FDI stocks in 2012 (62 %).

Between 2008 and 2012, EU inward FDI stocks from ASEAN almost doubled, from EUR 44.5 billion to EUR 88.7 billion. The highest annual change (+29 %) was from 2011 to 2012, contrary to FDI outflows, which decreased in that year. Although inward FDI stocks increased in all of the major partner countries, Singapore showed the highest increase (EUR 8 billion), however, this country saw a decrease in its share (from 92 % in 2008 to 77 % in 2012). Other ASEAN countries are gaining larger shares, as inward FDI stocks increased significantly amongst the partners with less FDI in the past. This is the case of Malaysia which had an 89 % increase and Thailand with a 100 % increase from 2011 to 2012.

Data sources and availability

Data source:

The figures presented in this publication have been extracted from Eurostat’s free dissemination database and reflect the state of data availability in March 2015.

Data on the trade of goods are also available in Eurostat’s COMEXT database. In the methodology applied for the statistics on the trading of goods between Member States and non-member countries (extra-EU trade), statistics 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". So the partner will be the country of final destination of the goods. Data on the trade of services are based on balance of payments statistics. The balance of payments records all economic transactions between a country (i.e. its residents) and foreign countries or international organisations (i.e. the non-residents of that country) during a given period. As part of the balance of payments, the current account records real resources and is subdivided into four basic components: goods, services, income and current transfers. The methodological framework used is that of the fifth edition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5). The EU balance of payments is compiled by Eurostat in accordance with a methodology agreed with the European Central Bank (ECB).

Category "Other services" includes: “Merchanting”, “Architectural, engineering and other technical consultancy”, “Services between affiliated enterprises”, “Communication”, “Construction”, “Insurance”, “Financial”, “Computer services” and “Royalties and licence fees”.

Data of foreign direct investment (FDI) are based on the methodological framework of the OECD Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment - Fourth edition, a detailed operational definition fully consistent with the IMF Balance of Payments Manual, Fifth Edition, BPM5. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is the category of international investment made by an entity resident in one economy (direct investor) to acquire a lasting interest in an enterprise operating in another economy (direct investment enterprise). The lasting interest is deemed to exist if the direct investor acquires at least 10 % of the voting power of the direct investment enterprise. Through outward FDI flows, an investor country builds up FDI assets abroad (outward FDI stocks). Correspondingly, inward FDI flows cumulate into liabilities towards foreign investors (inward FDI stocks). However, changes in FDI stocks differ from FDI flows because of the impact of revaluation (changes in prices and, for outward stocks, exchange rates) and other adjustments such as catastrophic losses, cancellation of loans, reclassification of existing assets or liabilities. FDI flows are components of the financial account of the balance of payments, while FDI assets and liabilities are components of the international investment position.

SITC classification (Figures 3 and 4, Tables 2 and 5) Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC) at a general level. A full description is available through Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.

COMEXT data (trade of goods): please note that the sums of the individual SITC product categories are less than the totals due to confidentiality reasons. The data from 2008 onwards has been revised using the NACE 2 revision (Tables 6 and 7).


Within Asia, ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is an important trading partner of the EU-28 which imports in particular electronic equipment, covering computers and consumer items, clothing and footwear, pharmaceuticals, crude rubber, palm oil and furniture.

The relations between the EU and ASEAN are conducted within the framework of the Plan of Action agreed at the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting of 26-27 April 2012 in Brunei Darussalam. For more information about ASEAN

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Balance of payments - International investment positions (t_bop_q)
International trade in services, geographical breakdown (t_bop_its)
European Union direct investments (t_bop_fdi)
International trade data (t_ext)


Balance of payments statistics and International investment positions (bop_q)
International trade in services, geographical breakdown (bop_its)
European Union direct investments (bop_fdi)
International trade data (ext)
International trade long-term indicators (ext_lti)
International trade short-term indicators (ext_sti)
International trade detailed data (detail)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links