Statistics Explained

Culture statistics - international trade in cultural goods


Data extracted in December 2020.

Planned article update: January 2022.

Highlights

Between 2014 and 2019, extra-EU imports of cultural goods grew faster than extra-EU exports.

Jewellery accounted for more than half of the value of all EU cultural exports in 2019.


[[File:Culture statistics - international trade in cultural goods March 2021.xlsx]]

Exports of cultural goods as a share of total exports, 2014 and 2019, (%)

This article forms part of an online publication Culture statistics. Trade statistics for cultural goods provide information on the value of international exchanges of these goods and show the weight of cultural trade within all EU-27 international trade. The analysis presented concerns data from 2014 to 2019, and shows the following information related to trade in cultural goods:

  • export and import values in absolute and relative terms (EUR million and as a share of total trade);
  • extra-EU and intra-EU trade;
  • the type of goods traded;
  • the EU’s main trading partners.


Full article


Cultural trade 2014-2019 at EU-27 and national level

This article analyses recent statistics on cultural trade for the European Union (EU); data are also presented for the candidate countries of Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey.

Trade partners for the EU-27 and individual EU Member States

The data presented for the EU-27 concern extra-EU trade flows. In other words, the aggregate EU-27 shows the European Union as a single entity and the intra-EU trade exchanges (between the EU Member States) are excluded. By contrast, trade data at a national level for individual EU Member States concern both intra- and extra-EU trade.


Cultural goods are products of artistic creativity that convey artistic, symbolic and aesthetic values. Examples include antiques, works of art, jewellery, books, newspapers, photos, films, music or video games. The cultural goods heading is very heterogeneous: while some of these goods are products of mass consumption, others are much-specialised items where demand or supply may be small. For example, there is much lower demand for embroidery, maps, architectural plans or drawings, than for books, video game consoles or jewellery. Such differences in the characteristics of cultural products, the relative specialisation of different EU Member States in producing these goods, and technological innovations driving new consumption patterns, all have an impact on the level of trade in cultural goods.

The definition of cultural goods used within this article excludes large-scale manufactured products that facilitate access to cultural content (for example, television sets, Blu-ray players, hi-fi equipment, smartphones, computers or tablets). For film, music and video games, the category includes all recorded media, magnetic or optical, which provides support to access cultural content. Musical instruments, which represent a means of artistic expression, are also included.


EU cultural trade — a growing trade surplus

In 2019, as well as in 2014, the EU-27 recorded a trade surplus for cultural goods. However, its value fell from EUR 4.1 billion in 2014 to EUR 3.7 billion in 2019, reflecting a faster increase in the value of imports (up from EUR 13.9 billion to EUR 18.5 billion) than in the value of exports (up from EUR 18.0 billion to EUR 22.2 billion). The ratio of exports to imports — otherwise known as the cover ratio — was 1.29 in 2014 and 1.20 in 2019, confirming that the value of EU-27 imports of cultural goods increased at a slightly faster pace than the value of exports (see Table 1).

During the period 2014 to 2019, the annual average growth rate (AAGR) for EU-27 exports of cultural goods was 4.3 %, while the corresponding rate of change for imports was 5.9 %; note that all changes are in current price terms.

A more detailed analysis by product revealed a growth for EU-27 exports and imports during the period 2014 to 2019 for photographic plates and films, video game consoles, musical instruments, jewellery, antiques, works of art, craft articles and books. Architectural plans and drawings showed an increase in exports, while imports of cultural goods from this category decreased by 5.7 % per year. There was also a fall in the value of exports as well as imports for recorded media (for example, CDs, DVDs, magnetic tapes and vinyl records), maps and newspapers, journals and periodicals.

Given their share of EU-27 trade in cultural goods, jewellery, recorded media and works of art were the largest contributors to the EU-27’s trade surplus in 2019.

Among the various cultural goods covered in the scope, the largest decrease in EU-27 exports between 2014 and 2019 was recorded for the categories of newspapers, journals and periodicals (down by 9.6 % per year) and maps (down by 5.5 % per year). The ’newspapers, journals and periodicals’ category, whose imports and exports decreased each year at a similar rate (down by 8.4 % per year for imports), reflects a shift towards digital media: an increasing number of cultural goods are being made available in digital form on the internet (sometimes supplementing and other times replacing physical media).

Table 1: Extra-EU trade in cultural goods, EU Member States, 2014 and 2019
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


The value of imports of cultural goods in the Member States increased faster than the value of exports

A range of factors could lead to a rise or fall in the value of trade in cultural goods. Economic developments (the stage in the economic cycle), or the shift to digital technologies for various types of content (and market challenges arising from the introduction of new technologies), may affect consumption patterns for cultural goods and result in a change in the relative share of these products within the overall basket of traded cultural goods.

The increase in imports of cultural goods between 2014 and 2019 was registered for the whole EU-27 and was also visible at the level of the Member States. Among the EU Member States, only 11 countries had a positive trade balance in cultural goods trade in 2019 (see Table 2): the largest positive balance of trade in cultural goods was recorded in Italy (over EUR 5.0 billion), followed by Poland (EUR 0.8 billion), France and Germany (both EUR 0.6 billion). Compared with 2014, only the position of the trade balance leader (Italy) did not change.

Looking at absolute values, the largest exports growths in international trade in cultural goods from 2014 to 2019 were recorded in France (EUR 3.4 billion), Poland (EUR 2.0 billion) and Germany (EUR 1.2 billion). In turn, Austria (EUR - 0.3 billion) and Denmark (EUR - 0.1 billion) recorded the largest decreases in the value of exports. The increase in exports concerned 17 EU countries, and the decrease in the value of exports was recorded in Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Finland, Denmark and Austria.

The highest import growths in cultural goods in the European Union were recorded in France (EUR 2.3 billion), Germany (EUR 2.2 billion) and Poland (EUR 1.6 billion). Between 2014 and 2019, imports of cultural goods increased in 19 of the EU Member States; in turn, Estonia, Austria, Latvia, Cyprus, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Malta recorded a decrease in their imports of cultural goods.


Table 2: Extra-EU trade in cultural goods, EU Member States, 2014 and 2019
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Exports

Between 2014 and 2019, the export values of cultural goods rose in 17 of the EU Member States. Bulgaria had the highest average growth rates, at 20.2 % per year, followed by Poland (19.4 % per year); among the Member States that recorded a double-digit growth rate during the period under consideration were also Czechia, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia (see Figure 1). In Bulgaria, exports of cultural goods grew from EUR 49.8 million to EUR 124.7 million and in Poland from EUR 1.4 billion to EUR 3.4 billion. In 2019, in Bulgaria, half of the exports of cultural goods consisted of products from the ’Recorded media’ and ’Jewellery’ categories, whereas in Poland more than 60 % of the exports of cultural goods consisted of products from the ‘Video game consoles’ and ‘Book’ categories (see Table 3).

The value of exports of cultural goods fell between 2014 and 2019 by 13.7 % per year in Malta and by 11.9 % in Luxembourg. In Malta, the fall in the value of exports was caused largely by a decline in the level of jewellery exports. In Luxembourg, the decline in the value of exports was largely attributed to a reduction in the value of exports for ‘Works of art’ category.

Figure 1: Annual average rate of change for the export of cultural goods, 2014-2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Imports

Turning to the development of imports of cultural goods during the period 2014-2019, by far the highest average rate of growth among the EU Member States was recorded in Poland (20.7 % per year) — this could be largely attributed to a rising values of imports of video game consoles, and products of the 'Books' category (see Table 4). The value of imports of cultural goods increased also in a further 18 Member States between 2014 and 2019, reaching a two-digit value, apart from Poland, only in Czechia (16 % per year). The steepest reductions in the value of imports for cultural goods were registered in Malta (down by 7.3 % per year), also in Finland and Sweden (down by 3.7 % and by 3.1 % per year respectively) (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Annual average rate of change for the import of cultural goods, 2014-2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Contribution of cultural trade to overall exports

Cultural goods account for a relatively low proportion of the EU-27’s overall level of (extra-EU) exports — around 1 % (see Figure 3). However, in 2019 the share of cultural goods was 0.04 % higher than in 2014 and amounted to 1.04 % of all exports of the European Union.

In 2019, at Member State level (and therefore based on extra- and intra-EU trade), France (with a 2.0 % share of cultural goods exports in total exports), Italy (with 1.7 %), Poland (with 1.4 %) and Latvia (with 1.1 %) were the only EU Member States where the share of cultural goods in total exports was higher than the EU-27 average (1.04 %). Cultural goods accounted for a relatively low share of total exports mostly in Finland, Hungary and Romania.

Between 2014 and 2019, the contribution of cultural goods to total exports increased in 8 Member States, with the biggest relative increases in Poland (up from 0.8 % to 1.4 %) and France (up from 1.5 % to 2.0 %). In 19 Member States, the share of cultural goods in total exports decreased, with the relatively largest decline in Malta (down by 0.9 percentage points, more than half of its share in 2014).


Figure 3: Exports of cultural goods as a share of total exports, 2014 and 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Contribution of cultural trade to overall imports

In the EU-27, cultural goods accounted for 1.0 % of total (extra-EU) imports in 2019, compared with a 0.9 % share in 2014 (see Figure 4). In nine EU Member States, the share of cultural goods in total imports was higher in 2019 than in 2014. The contribution of cultural goods to total imports grew most notably in Poland (by 0.5 percentage points). The highest share of cultural goods in total imports in 2019 was recorded in France (1.6 %), followed by Poland and Austria where this share was higher than the EU average. The share of cultural goods in total imports was at its lowest in Hungary, Romania, Lithuania and Estonia.

Figure 4: Imports of cultural goods as a share of total imports, 2014 and 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Intra- and extra-EU trade

In a majority of the EU Member States, intra-EU exchanges of cultural goods were of greater value than extra-EU trade

The trade by EU Member States can be analysed from two perspectives: intra-EU trade (between EU Member States) and extra-EU trade (with non-member countries). The ratio between the two is an indication of the heterogeneity of a country’s trade patterns and, to some extent, may reflect historical ties and geographical location. Care should be taken when interpreting the size of intra-EU trade relative to the size of extra-EU trade, in particular because of the importance of quasi-transit trade in some EU Member States (for example, the Netherlands).[1]

In 2019, the total value of cultural goods exported by EU Member States was estimated at around EUR 43.5 billion; 49 % of these cultural goods were destined for other EU Member States, while 51 % were destined for non-member countries (see Figure 5). Looking in more detail, there were 19 EU Member States where at least half of the total export value of cultural goods was made up of trade with other EU Member States. In several cases, this share was considerably higher, exceeding 90 % in Slovakia and 80 % in Romania, Poland and Czechia. By contrast, the value of extra-EU exports exceeded the value of intra-EU exports in Malta, France, Italy, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Greece.


Figure 5: Share of extra-EU and intra-EU trade within all exports of cultural goods, 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Figure 6 provides a similar analysis but in terms of imports of cultural goods. In 2019, the total value of cultural goods imported by EU Member States was estimated at around EUR 37.9 billion; 51.3 % of these cultural goods were imported from other EU Member States, while 48.7 % were imported from non-member countries (see Figure 6). There were 21 EU Member States where imports from the intra-EU market exceeded half of all imports of cultural goods. For some countries - Austria, Czechia, Poland, Portugal and Croatia - the share of such intra-EU imports surpassed 80 %.

On the other hand, the imports from outside the European Union exceeded 50 % of total imports of cultural goods mostly in Ireland and in the Netherlands — where it surpassed 70 % of the total imports of cultural goods — and also in France, Greece, Spain and Italy.


Figure 6: Share of extra-EU and intra-EU trade within all imports of cultural goods, 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


EU trade in cultural goods by product

Jewellery accounted for more than 50 % of the value of extra-EU exports of cultural goods

In 2019, jewellery articles made of precious metal and stones accounted for half of EU-27 (extra-EU) exports of cultural goods (54.6 %). The combined share of ‘Jewellery’, ‘Works of art’, ‘Books’, ‘Recorded media’ and ‘Video game consoles’ categories was almost 90 % of the EU-27’s exports of cultural goods (see Table 3).

When considering trade in the various types of cultural goods, some particular specialisations within individual EU Member States become apparent. Jewellery accounted for more than half of all exports of cultural products in Italy (with share of 78.7 % in total exports of cultural goods), Malta (with share of 69.1 %) and France (with share of 65.7 %). Products from ‘Works of art’ category were principal cultural goods in the exports from Luxembourg (47.4 %). Books were the principal cultural goods in the exports from Latvia (69.1 %) and also from Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Greece, Croatia and Belgium. ‘Recorded media’ category was the leading type of cultural exports in nine EU-Member States and their share was over 50 % in Cyprus (58.6 %), Ireland (57.0 %), Austria (53.3 %) and Czechia (50.4 %). Video game consoles had the highest share in five Member States, accounting for 45.2 % of the total exports of cultural goods in the Netherlands (see footnote 1). The largest share of exports of cultural goods in Portugal (35.2 %) was composed of craft articles (hand-made fabrics and ornamental articles, with share of 33.3 % in total exports of cultural goods), while the most common cultural goods from Estonia were products in the ‘Newspapers, journals and periodicals’ category’ (42.1 %).

Table 3: Exports of cultural goods by group of products, 2019
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Jewellery and video game consoles were the most imported cultural goods

In 2019, the main categories of cultural goods that were imported into the EU-27 included jewellery (41.0 % of extra-EU imports), video game consoles (20.6 %), books (9.2 %), works of art (8.3 %) and musical instruments (6.5 %). These five categories together accounted for 85.6 % of the cultural goods imported into the EU-27 from non-member countries (see Table 4).

Among the individual EU Member States (and therefore taking account of both intra- and extra-EU trade), nine countries imported more jewellery (in value terms) than any other type of cultural goods (Estonia, Ireland, Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and Portugal). In the case of France and Italy, the share of jewellery imports was more than half of total cultural goods imports (59.2 % and 52.2 % respectively). For nine Member States (Denmark, Germany, Spain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden), the value of imports of video game consoles was higher than for any other type of cultural goods in 2019, while books were the most common type of cultural imports in three countries (Belgium, Austria and Slovenia). Craft articles accounted for the highest share of imports of cultural goods in Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary and Romania. 'Works of art' were the main imported cultural goods in Luxembourg and 'Recorded media' - in Czechia.

Table 4: Imports of cultural goods by group of products, 2019
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prd)


Principal partners for EU trade in cultural goods

Switzerland and the United Kingdom were the leading markets for EU-27 exports of cultural goods

The cumulative share of the EU-27’s ten main export partners in cultural goods trade increased from 80.8 % in 2014, to 81.9 % in 2019.

In 2019, the EU-27’s principal export markets for cultural goods were Switzerland (24.2 % of extra-EU exports of cultural goods), the United Kingdom (21.5 %) and the United States (13.8 %). Together, they accounted for over half of all exports of cultural goods. None of the EU’s remaining export partners registered a double-digit share at the same time (see Figure 7).

Comparing 2014 and 2019, the country that most noticeably increased its share as a partner in total exports of cultural goods from European Union was the United Kingdom (by 5 percentage points). The United States, China and Hong Kong were the other countries out of the ten main partners whose share in the export of cultural goods was higher in 2019 compared to 2014. At the same time, the share in total exports of cultural goods mostly decreased for the United Arab Emirates (by 2.9 percentage points), and for Switzerland (by 2.7 percentage points). In addition, the share in total exports of cultural goods also slightly decreased for other main partners — Russia, Norway, Japan and Turkey.


Figure 7: Top 10 main partners for extra EU-27 exports of cultural goods, EU-27, 2014 and 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prt)


China was the principal origin of EU-27 imports of cultural goods

In 2019, three out of four imports of cultural goods to the European Union came from four countries - China (23.8 %), the United Kingdom (20.8 %), Switzerland (19.5 %) and the United States (11.0 %). None of the other top-ten main partners for extra EU-27 imports of cultural goods (Turkey, Japan, Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Indonesia) exceeded a 5 % share in this field (see Figure 8).

Comparing the list of the main partners in cultural goods import in 2014 and 2019, a decrease can be noticed in the share of Switzerland (by 2.5 percentage points), China (by 1.8 percentage points), as well as by the United States, Thailand and Hong Kong. In turn, the share in imports of cultural goods to the EU increased for the United Kingdom as well as for Turkey, Japan, India and Indonesia. It is also worth noting that between 2014 and 2019 Japan was the country that most increased its share in total imports of cultural goods to the EU-27 (by 2.6 percentage points).

In addition to the ten above-mentioned countries, the share of cultural goods imports from other partners accounted for 6.3 %. In other words, the cumulative share of the top 10 partners amounted to 93.7 % of the total import of cultural goods to the European Union in 2019.


Figure 8: Top 10 main partners for extra EU-27 imports of cultural goods, EU-27, 2014 and 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (cult_trd_prt)



Data sources

Eurostat compiles data on international trade in cultural goods from the Comext database, which contains statistics on international trade in goods for EU Member States, EFTA countries, and candidate countries.

The Comext database includes statistics on international trade in goods. Goods refer to all movable property (including gas and electricity), in other words, products with a physical and/or tangible dimension — international trade in licenses and copyrights is, therefore, excluded. Trade in goods includes all goods which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of the reporting EU Member State by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its economic territory including goods for processing.

Extra-EU trade refers to transactions with all countries outside of the EU: the rest of the world except for the European Union (EU); these statistics are collected on the basis of customs declarations. Intra-EU trade, on the other hand, refers to all transactions occurring within the EU between the Member States; these statistics are based on the Intrastat system.

The trade balance is the difference between the value of the goods that a country (or another geographic or economic area such as the EU or the euro area) exports and the value of the goods that it imports. If exports exceed imports then the declaring country has a trade surplus and the trade balance is said to be positive. If imports exceed exports, then the declaring country has a trade deficit and its trade balance is said to be negative.

International trade statistics are classified according to several product classifications, which facilitate comparisons across the EU and also within a wider international context. Among the most commonly used classifications are the harmonised system (HS) and the combined nomenclature (CN). The HS is used worldwide and is made-up of headings with six-digit codes, while the CN was designed to meet the specific needs of EU international trade statistics (it extends the headings to eight-digit codes, of which the first six codes are identical to those used in the HS).

An ESSnet-Culture final report (2012) established a list of internationally traded cultural goods using CN codes. The process for selecting cultural goods was based upon identifying a list of 8-digit codes within 10 cultural domains. For the sake of consistency and in order to facilitate the analysis of developments over time, the various product codes were aggregated into 12 types of cultural products. The list of cultural aggregates and detailed information on their composition can be found in Annex 2 of the metadata on international trade in cultural goods.


Identification of cultural goods

Figure 9: Cultural goods according to cultural domains
Source: Eurostat (Guide to Eurostat culture statistics — 2018 edition)


The ESSnet-Culture final report (2012) created a framework for culture statistics on the basis of cultural activities, which relate to the intersection between 10 cultural domains and six economic functions. Trade is an important aspect of the dissemination of culture statistics and one of the six economic functions (together with creation, production/publishing, preservation, education, and management/regulation).

Eurostat analysed the 10 cultural domains from a product perspective in order to establish a list of internationally traded cultural goods. Initially, the analysis focused on artistic creation, with the goal of covering products that convey and encompass symbolic, aesthetic, artistic and spiritual values (for example, works of art or crafts). The scope was later extended to various products that did not meet the criteria for artistic creation, but were considered to enable artistic expression or access to cultural content (for example, musical instruments, CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs). Cultural equipment in a wider sense (for example, television sets, CD players, or cameras) was excluded.

On the basis of these criteria, cultural goods and products were identified in seven domains (see Figure 9). The initial list of cultural goods (proposed in 2015) was revised in 2016, with the aim of better harmonising the EU’s methodological framework with that proposed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). As a result, Eurostat’s culture statistics working group agreed to add jewellery (of precious and semi-precious metals and stones), some hand-made ornamental articles and some goods with audio-visual content to the list of cultural goods.

More recently, the list underwent another revision to take into account changes brought about by a revision of the CN classification in 2017. In particular, this revision affected the codes related to support for audio-visual content by removing the distinction between support for sound (music) on the one hand and for sound and vision (film, video and video games) on the other hand. Henceforth, one aggregate is presented for the support of all audio-visual content — music, films, videos and video games — under the broad heading of recorded media (covering the previous headings for music in manuscript, gramophone records, recorded magnetic tapes and optical media (CDs) and audio-visual and interactive media). The classification of video game consoles (previously under the heading of audio-visual and interactive media), could be split from the other codes and hence maintained as a separate product type.

Due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union, the current article ‘Statistics Explained – International trade in cultural goods’ presents the UK as a third country. From the Eurobase source tables indicated below tables and figures, it is possible to find the EU-28 aggregate, related to the EU composition of 28 Member States (from 2013 to 31.01.2020), for the entire time series.


The impact of quasi-transit (the ‘Rotterdam effect’)

The trade flows of EU Member States may be overvalued because of quasi-transit trade. A country’s trade balance is not impacted, as quasi-transit trade should increase by the same amount as intra- and extra-EU trade flows (extra-EU imports are followed by dispatches to another EU Member State, while arrivals from one EU Member State are then followed by extra-EU exports to the final destination). Quasi-transit trade principally impacts the Member States with large ports that trade in goods at the external EU border; this phenomenon is particularly prominent in the Netherlands (hence it is known as the ‘Rotterdam effect’) and Belgium. For example (and in line with EU rules), the Netherlands records goods arriving in Dutch ports that are destined for other Member States as extra-EU imports and (when goods are then released for free circulation) as intra-EU dispatches (exports) from the Netherlands to other Member States.

Quasi-transit trade is known to affect imports more than exports, although exports are also affected. In some cases, customs clearance occurs not in the original EU Member State from which the exports originate but rather the Member State from which the goods leave the EU’s customs territory.


Context

Culture is one of Europe’s greatest assets: it is a source of values, identity and a sense of belonging; it also contributes towards well-being, social cohesion and inclusion. The cultural and creative sectors may also provide a stimulus for economic growth, job creation and international trade.

That is why culture is becoming increasingly important within the EU. In accordance with Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common heritage to the fore.

The EU supports these objectives through the Creative Europe programme, as well as a number of policy actions set out in the Work Plan for Culture (2015-2018) and the Work Plan for Culture (2019-2022). The latter, adopted by EU culture ministers in November 2018, sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policymaking: sustainability in cultural heritage; cohesion and well-being; an ecosystem supporting artists, cultural and creative professionals and European content; gender equality; and international cultural relations.

The production of reliable, comparable and up-to-date cultural statistics, which provide a basis for sound cultural policymaking, is a cross-sectorial priority in the latest work plan. Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several different data collections to provide policymakers and other users with information on the main developments in the field of culture, covering issues such as education, employment, business, international trade, participation and consumption patterns.

Statistics on international trade in cultural goods provide an assessment of the value of cultural goods traded between EU Member States (intra-EU trade) and between the EU and non-member countries (extra-EU trade).


Notes

  1. The high share recorded in the Netherlands may be attributed in part to the impact of quasi-transit of goods, in other words, the so-called ‘Rotterdam effect’ (see the Data sources section for more details).

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