Statistics Explained

Archive:USA-EU - international trade and investment statistics

EU and US form the largest trade and investment relationship in the world

Statistics in focus 2/2015; Authors: Gilberto Gambini, Radoslav Istatkov and Riina Kerner
ISSN:2314-9647  Catalogue number:KS-SF-15-002-EN-N

This Statistics Explained article is outdated and has been archived - for recent articles on international trade see here.

This article focuses on recent trends in European Union (EU) trade with the United States in goods and services and in foreign direct investment (FDI). The EU–United States (US) economic relationship accounts for a large share of global trade in goods and in services. They are each other’s main trading partners in goods and services, and together they have the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. Either the EU or the United States is the largest trade and investment partner for almost all other countries in the global economy. The two economies also provide each other with their most important sources of foreign direct investment.

Figure 1: Share of EU-28 and US imports and exports in world trade, total products, 2003–13
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_introle)
Figure 2: Total trade in goods with the US, EU-28, 2003–13
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 3: Trade in goods with the US, by product (SITC level 1), EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 4: Main exports to the US (SITC level 2), EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 5: Main imports from the US (SITC level 2), EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 6: Share of exports to US on total extra-EU-28 exports, by product (SITC level 2), EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 7: Share of imports from the US on total extra-EU-28 imports, by product (SITC level 2), EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)
Figure 8: Trade in goods with the US, by size class of trader (in terms of number of employees), EU-28, 2011 and 2012
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-057390)
Figure 9: Trade in goods with the US, by main economic activity of the trader (NACE classification), EU-28, 2012
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-057390)
Figure 10: Total trade in services with the US, EU-28, 2004–12 (¹)
(in billion EUR)
(¹) 2004–09: EU-27; 2010–12: EU-28.
Source: Eurostat (bop_its_det)
Figure 11: Trade in services with the US, by main sector, EU-28, 2013
Source: Eurostat (bop_its_det)
Figure 12: Foreign direct investment stocks with the US, EU-27, 2004–12
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (bop_fdi_main)
Figure 13: Foreign direct investment flows with the US, EU-27, 2004–12
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (bop_fdi_main)

Main statistical findings

EU–US position in world trade

Compared with the other major world economies, the United States and the EU recorded among the highest values for trade in goods (2013 data). In 2013, the EU-28 recorded EUR 1 736.6 billion worth of exports, the highest value in international trade. China and the United States followed closely at EUR 1 663.3 billion and EUR 1 188.2 billion respectively. The United States has traditionally been a major trading economy but its relative significance has declined in recent years, in particular in exports. In 2007, China overtook the United States and became the second largest exporter of goods behind the EU-28. The United States had a considerable deficit in trade in 2013 (EUR 565.0 billion), the highest deficit among the major economies. India recorded the second highest deficit (EUR 97.5 billion), while the EU-28 recorded a surplus of EUR 51.7 billion.[1]; Together, the EU-28 and the United States accounted for close to one third (31.1 %) of global imports of goods and 27.0 % of global exports in 2013 (Figure 1). Between 2003 and 2013 the United States' share of total exports fell from 14.2 % to 11.0 %. The share of the United States in world imports has fallen substantially since 2003, from 24.2 % to 15.9 % in 2013. The EU's export share followed the same trend as the United States during the above mentioned period, while the EU's import share declined more gradually. As a result, from 2008 to 2011, the EU-28 ranked first among importers, but from 2012 the United States was again top.

Goods and services are increasingly linked together. Having access to certain services is a prerequisite for the economic performance of many manufacturers of the main goods that are exchanged between the EU and the United States. For example, producers and exporters of textiles, cars or computers cannot be competitive without access to efficient banking, insurance, accountancy, telecom or transport systems. The EU-28 is the world’s largest exporter and importer of services, with a trade surplus of EUR 146.7 billion in 2012. The United States shared the same pattern, and had the second highest levels of exports and imports of services (2011 data), and also came second in trade surplus for services, at EUR 128.3 billion.[2]

EU–US trade in goods

The United States has traditionally been the EU’s major trading partner, but its relative significance has declined in recent years, in particular for exports. Having peaked in 2006, EU trade in goods with the United States declined notably for both imports and exports in 2009 (Figure 2), following the global financial and economic turmoil at the end of 2008. It recovered again following an upward trend up to 2012. However, in 2013 both imports and exports showed a slight decline compared with 2012. The trade balance is positive since the beginning of the series (2002) meaning the EU’s exports to the United States are greater than its imports.

In 2013, manufactured goods (all products included in SITC 5–8) accounted for the largest share of EU exports to the United States (87.1 % - see Figure 3). Manufactured goods made up the majority of EU imports (79.9 %) as well.

Machinery and transport equipment were by far the most traded products in both EU export and import flows to the United States (EUR 124.2 million and 74.4 million respectively) and made up 43.4 % of total EU exports and 38.2 % of total EU imports. Chemicals and related products accounted for 21.6 % of EU exports and 22.3 % of EU imports. Miscellaneous manufactured articles (SITC 8) and manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (SITC 6), followed. Among primary products, mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (SITC 3) held the highest share of both EU’s import and export flows (6.1 % and 9.7 % respectively). Within the SITC at 2-digit level, road vehicles were the most exported merchandise to the United States. The most common imports were medical and pharmaceutical products closely followed by power-generating machinery and equipment (Figures 4 and 5).

In 2013, the share of exports to the United States in total extra EU-28 exports was 18.5 %. An analysis by product breakdown shows that organic chemicals (36.7 %) and beverages (31.5 %) had the highest proportion of exports to the United States in total extra-EU exports. In the case of six other products (medicinal and pharmaceutical products, power-generating machinery, scientific and controlling instruments, miscellaneous manufactured articles, coins and road vehicles) the United States accounted for between 20 % and 30 % of the total. The United States had also close to a 20 % share of extra-EU exports for two other chapters: ‘photographic, optical and clock equipment’ and ‘inorganic chemicals’. The share of imports from the United States in total extra EU-28 imports was, at 11.6 %, somewhat lower than exports. Live animals other than animals of division 03 (meaning animals other than fish) recorded the highest share of imports from the United States in total extra-EU imports, at more than 50 %. Power-generating machinery and equipment had a slightly lower share imports from the United States: 49 % in 2013. Still within the top ten products where the United States was the EU’s main partner in terms of imports, chemical materials and products; professional, scientific and controlling instruments and apparatus; medicinal and pharmaceutical products and other transport equipment all accounted for shares higher than one third of total EU imports (see Figures 6 and 7).

Main characteristics of traders

Figures 8 and 9 show trade in goods data with the United States in 2011 and 2012, broken down by two characteristics of the traders, enterprise size (in terms of number of employees) and main economic activity according to the Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE).

Trade by size class of the traders is one of the most important statistical indicators from trade by enterprise characteristics (TEC). In 2012, the contribution of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) was larger for imports than for exports (see Figure 8). SMEs (which have less than 250 employees) were responsible for 28 % of the total value of exports to the United States and 38 % of imports. Figures for 2011 were similar. Small enterprises (0–49 employees) were responsible for almost 12 % of the value of exports, while the share of medium-sized enterprises (50–249 employees) was around 16 %. Large enterprises accounted for more than half of the value of both exports and imports, 68 % and 54 % respectively.

Focusing on enterprise activities, the industry and trade sectors (NACE sections B–E and G) account for the majority of EU trade with the United States, both in terms of trade value and number of enterprises (see Figure 9). In 2012, the industry sector (B–E) contributed significantly more than the trade sector (G) to total trade value. For imports, trade was fairly equally distributed between the industry sector (48 %) and other sectors including the trade sector (52 %, of which 30 % trade and 22 % other), while exports were principally driven by the industry sector, which accounted for almost two-thirds (63 %) of total trade.

The number of establishments involved in trade with the United States was unequally distributed across the various sectors: while trade represented a share of 41 % of importers from the United States, industry accounted for only 26 %. On the other hand, the number of enterprises involved in exports was higher for industry (48 %) than for trade (31 %). Other sectors had a share of 21 %.

EU-US trade in services

A relatively high share of the EU-28’s trade in services was with the United States — although exports and imports were broadly in line with each other — resulting in a relatively small surplus. Trade in services also declined notably for both imports and exports in 2009 (EUR 130.2 billion and EUR 128.1 billion respectively). Since then, values rose to EUR 164.8 billion for exports and EUR 150.9 billion for imports in 2012. The trade balance for services was a smaller surplus throughout the decade compared with the trade balance in goods. The trade balance in services had been positive since the beginning of the series (2004) until 2008 when it was almost balanced, followed by a EUR 2.1 billion deficit in 2009.

Other business services made up 34.1 % of EU exports to the United States in 2013. Transportation followed with 18.0 %. Travel and financial services accounted for 11.0 % and 10.6 % respectively. Royalties and license fees and computer and information services also accounted for proportions higher than 5 %, 8.8 % and 7.2 % respectively. All other services accounted for shares lower than 5 %.

Foreign direct investment

The investment between the EU and the United States is the real driver of the transatlantic relationship, contributing to growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, it influences trade figures positively, as it is estimated that a third of the trade between the EU and the United States actually consists of intra-company transfers.

EU-27[3] FDI stocks in the United States more than doubled between 2004 and 2012, and the United States' FDI stocks in the EU-27 doubled over that period. Since 2006, the EU has recorded a positive balance vis-à-vis the United States, with outward stocks exceeding inward stocks.

Total EU-27 FDI outflows to the United States increased to EUR 163.4 billion in 2011 and dropped again in 2012, down to EUR 62.9 billion. Inward flows, i.e. the flows from the United States to the EU-27, also decreased in 2012 by more than a half from the previous year, down to EUR 98.8 billion.

Data sources and availability

EU data on international trade comes from Eurostat’s COMEXT database. COMEXT is the Eurostat 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 from 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. The statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of Customs (extra-EU) declarations.

EU data are compiled according to community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by EU 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.


  • Number of enterprises

The number of enterprises consists in a count of the number of enterprises involved in trade during at least a part of the reference period.

  • Number of employees

The number of employees is defined as those persons who work for an employer and who have a contract of employment and receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, fees, gratuities, piecework pay or remuneration in kind.

  • Classifications

Enterprises are classified according to the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community, Rev. 2 (NACE Rev. 2). From the reference year 2008 onwards, the activity sector is broken down by NACE Rev. 2 division (2-digit level) for sections C (Manufacturing) and G (Trade) and by section level for other activities. The size-classes in terms of number of employees are: 0–9, 10–49, 50–249, 250 or more and Unknown. For detailed information, please refer to ‘RAMON’, Eurostat’s Classification Server.

  • 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. FDI statistics record separately:

1) Inward FDI (or FDI in the reporting economy), namely investment by foreigners in enterprises resident in the reporting economy.

2) Outward FDI (or FDI abroad), namely investment by residents entities in affiliated enterprises abroad.

  • International trade in services statistics come from the transactions recorded under the country's balance of payment, hence the transactions that take place between economy's residents and non-residents.


The European Union and the United States have the largest bilateral trade relationship and enjoy the most integrated economic relationship in the world. The EU and USA have decided to take their economic relationship to a higher level by agreeing to launch negotiations for a comprehensive trade and investment agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Launched in 2013, the current TTIP negotiations between the EU and the United States are designed to increase trade and investment across the Atlantic by reducing and, where possible, eliminating remaining barriers to transatlantic trade and investment, whether they are tariffs on farm or manufactured products, restrictions on foreign service suppliers, or limitations on investment possibilities.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation


Main tables

International trade (t_ext)


International trade data (ext)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

In the methodology applied for statistics on the trade of goods, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-member 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.

The balance of payments (BoP) is an important macro-economic indicator used to assess the position of an economy (of credit or debit) towards the external world. Data on International Trade in Services (ITS), a component of BoP current account, are used, alongside with data on Foreign Direct Investment, to monitor the external commercial performance of different economies. Some indicators of EU market integration are also derived from BoP data.  ITS data are collected by national enterprise surveys, International Transaction System (ITRS) and administrative records. The methodological framework followed the Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services. The balance of payments provides information on the total value of credits (or exports) and debits (or imports) for each BoP item and on the net result or ‘balance’ (credits minus debits) of the transactions with each partner.

The main services categories are:

  • Transport
  • Travel
  • Communication services
  • Construction services.
  • Insurance services.
  • Financial services.
  • Royalties and license fees.
  • Other business services.
  • Personal, cultural and recreational services.
  • Government services n.i.e.
  • Services not allocated.

For more information see the EU-International trade Metadata page and International trade in services, geographical breakdown Metadata page.

  • Product classification

Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC).

SITC is a product classification of the United Nations (UN) used for external trade statistics (export and Import values and volumes of goods), allowing for international comparisons of commodities and manufactured goods.

The main categories are:

  • food, drinks and tobacco (Sections 0 and 1 — including live animals);
  • raw materials (Sections 2 and 4);
  • energy products (Section 3);
  • chemicals (Section 5);
  • machinery and transport equipment (Section 7) and
  • other manufactured goods (Sections 6 and 8).

A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links

European Commission

United Nations


  1. Share of the EU in world trade (ext_lt_introle).
  2. International trade in services — Data for the Eurostat yearbook (bop_its_ybk)
  3. EU-28 data not available for the whole time period