Statistics Explained

EU international trade in goods - latest developments


Data extracted in November 2022

Planned article update: 27 February 2023

Highlights


EU imports of goods continued to grow stronger than exports in the third quarter of 2022.

The share of Russia in extra-EU imports of energy products fell by 10 percentage points since the first quarter of 2022

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This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods of the European Union (EU) since 2019, using quarterly data. It analyses the type of goods exchanged with countries outside the EU, focusing on its five main partners: China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Russia.

The increase of extra-EU trade continued to be significant and was driven by increasing prices of commodities, especially for energy products. Russia's invasion of Ukraine put further upward pressure on the prices of energy and primary goods. This article shows the latest developments in quarterly seasonally adjusted data. Articles with a long term analysis are available in the online publication International trade in goods - a statistical picture.

Full article

The latest development in the third quarter of 2022


The increase in extra-EU trade continued to be significant in the third quarter of 2022 and was driven by rising commodity prices, in particular for energy and food, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine put additional upward pressure on these products. In addition, trade in machinery & vehicles also grew. The increase in imports (+6.2% compared to the previous quarter) continued to be higher than for exports (+2.7%), but the growth gap between the two flows narrowed. The trade deficit continued to increase and stood at €156 billion in the third quarter of 2022.

Figure 1: EU trade in goods, quarterly data from 2019-I to 2022-III
(€ billion, seasonally adjusted)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)

The higher increase of extra-EU imports than exports in the third quarter was mainly due to the energy sector (+13.3% compared to the second quarter of 2022) and to machinery & vehicles (+8.0 % ). On the other hand, exports outgrew imports for food & drink (+6.8%) and for other manufactured goods (+2.6%).

Figure 2: EU trade by product group, third quarter 2022
(growth rates compared to the previous quarter)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)

When compared with the same quarter of the previous year, the increase of energy growth, especially with respect to the other products, is even more impressive. In the third quarter of 2022 the imports of energy products increased by 148.2 %, while the exports of energy products grew by 85.6 %. However, as already shown in the article [EU_imports_of_energy_products_-_recent_developments|EU_imports_of_energy_products_-_recent_developments]], the large increase of energy products is to a large extent due to the increase in prices for natural gas and petroleum oils. Imports grew more than exports for all the other products. Raw materials was the product with the lowest increase: 15.7% for imports and 7.9% for exports.


Figure 3: EU trade by product group, third quarter 2022
(growth rates compared to the same quarter of the previous year)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)

Extra-EU trade by partners

The impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine led to significant changes in the share of the main partners because of the several sanctions affecting directly and indirectly the trade of oil and natural gas. Between the third quarter of 2021 and the most recent trade figures for the third quarter of 2022, the share of imports from Russia decreased by 2.2 percentage points (pp) while the share of imports from China (- 1.6 pp) and Switzerland (-1.0 pp) also decreased (Figure 4). In the same period, imports from the United Kingdom and the United States China increased by 0.8 pp and 1.0 pp, respectively.

Figure 4: EU imports of goods from main partners, third quarter 2021 and 2022
(% of extra-EU imports, seasonally adjusted data)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)

As regards export flows, the imposition of restrictions has led to a decline in Russia’s share (-2.2 pp) in the third quarter of 2022, compared to the third quarter of 2021. During the same period, the shares in the EU's exports of goods to the United States and Switzerland both rose by 1.3 pp and 0.1 pp respectively, while shares for China (-0.9 pp) and the United Kingdom (- 0.6 pp) fell (Figure 5).

Figure 5: EU exports to main partners, third quarter 2021 and 2022
(% of extra-EU exports, seasonally adjusted data)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)


Extra-EU imports of energy products: falling shares for imports from Russia

Since the second quarter of 2020, rising prices have caused large increases in the value of imports of energy products (see Figure 6). Until the first quarter of 2022, imports from Russia increased most but in the two most recent quarters Russian imports fell by € 6.1 billion. In those two quarters imports from the United Kingdom (+ € 8.0 billion) and the United States (+ € 9.7 billion) increased strongly.

Figure 6: EU imports of energy products per partner, 2019-I to 2022-III
(€ billion, seasonally adjusted)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)

The changes in values directly effect the shares by trade partner of energy product. In the first quarter of 2019 Russia's share was more than twice as much as that of the United States and the United Kingdom combined. However, in the second quarter of 2022 the combined share of the United States and United Kingdom was 1.4 pp higher than that of Russia and this difference grew to 4.8 pp in the third quarter of 2022. The share of other partners grew by 3.5 pp between the first quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2022. More recently Russia's share in imports of energy products declined by more than 10 pp from 25.5 % in the first quarter of 2022 to 15.1 % in the third quarter of 2022.

Figure 7: EU imports of energy products per partner, 2019-I to 2022-III
(share of extra-EU, seasonally adjusted)
Source: Eurostat (ext_st_eu27_2020sitc)


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 non-EU 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 EU 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 EU guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the EU Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 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.

The United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU for the whole period covered by this article. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. Consequently, while imports from any other extra-EU trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect the country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason, data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU trade partners.

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.

Unit of measure

Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (1 000 millions) 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 one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.

Because the 27 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)