Intra-EU - most traded goods


Data extracted in March 2019.

Planned update: April 2020.

Highlights

Between 2014 and 2018, the 5 most exported types of goods between EU countries were Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, Chemicals and chemical products, Machinery and equipment n.e.c., Computer, electronic and optical products and Food products.

Although the composition of the EU remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018, exports between EU countries increased by €586 billion, equivalent to a 4.7 % annual growth rate.

Shares and rank for CPA categories in top 5 in intra EU exports between 2013 and 2017

This article focuses on the most significant goods by value (according to the CPA classification) in intra-EU exports and presents statistics for the EU-28 from 2014 to 2018. Statistics on goods traded between the EU and the world — especially the size and evolution of exports — enable the EU and national authorities to evaluate the health and competitiveness of EU industries. The article discusses the contribution of individual Member States to total intra-EU exports for the five most exported product groups. Additionally, it shows the share these product groups have in each Member States’ total intra-EU exports of 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

Key messages

  • Between 2014 and 2018 the five most exported types of goods were Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, Chemicals and chemical products, Computer, electronic and optical products and Food products.
  • Although the composition of the EU remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018, intra-EU exports increased by €586 billion, equivalent to a 4.7 % annual growth rate.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, intra-EU exports in the five most exported types of goods increased by €326 billion, equivalent to a 4.5 % annual growth rate.

Evolution of intra-EU trade

The CPA classification consists of 40 products. Table 1 shows the 24 most exported products, while the remaining 16 are grouped as "Other". Among the 24 products, 20 recorded their highest exports in 2018. The four exceptions were Coke and refined petroleum products, Other transport equipment, Products of agriculture, hunting and related services and 'Crude petroleum and natural gas'.

Table 1: Intra-EU exports of main CPA groups, 2014-2018
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

The composition of total exports of goods in 2018 in the 24 CPA groups mentioned in Table 1, is presented in Figure 1. The top five product groups are Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers (cars), Chemicals and chemical products (chemicals), Machinery and equipment n.e.c. (machines), Computer, electronic and optical products (computers) and Food products (food). Together they account for almost half of all exports (47 %). With 13.1 %, 'Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers' is the only product with a share above 10 %. The rest of this article will concentrate on these top five products.

Figure 1: Shares for main CPA groups in intra-EU exports, 2018 (%)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)


For readability, in the rest of the article we use the designation of these products given in bold between brackets in the paragraph above. However, readers should keep in mind that these do not correspond exactly to the definition of these product groups.



The 5 most significant products in intra-EU trade

The most exported product within the EU was cars. Its exports grew from EUR 343 billion to EUR 460 billion. (see Figure 2). The intra-EU exports of the second to fourth most traded products grew less in this period and remained fairly close to each other. In 2018, exports of chemicals amounted to EUR 330 billion. It was followed by machines with EUR 308 billion and computers with EUR 304 billion. Intra-EU exports of food stood at EUR 244 billion in 2018 with the gap to the other products increasing between 2014 and 2018.

Figure 2: Shares for top 5 CPA categories in intra-EU exports, 2014-2018
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Intra-EU trade of the most traded goods by Member State

The analysis in this section looks at extra-EU exports by individual EU Member State for the five most trade products identified above. Figures 3-7 show the shares of these products in total exports, showing how important these products were in each Member State. The detailed data underlying these figures can be found in the excel file near the end of this article.

Germany was the largest exporter of cars to other EU Member States in 2018, accounting for more than a quarter of all intra-EU exports of cars amounting to EUR 119 billion (see Figure 3). This was 15 % of all German intra-EU exports. There were six Member States where cars made up more than 20 % of their total intra-EU exports. These were Slovakia (28.1 %), Romania (24.2 %), Slovenia (23.0 %), Hungary (21.6 %), Czechia (21.8 %) and Spain (21.2 %).

Figure 3: Intra EU exports of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, 2018
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Germany was also the largest exporter of chemicals to other EU Member States in 2018, accounting for more than a one fifth of all intra-EU exports of chemicals amounting to EUR 66 billion (see Figure 4). This was 8.5 % of all German intra-EU exports. In five Member States chemicals made up more than 10 % of their total intra-EU exports. These were Ireland (22.9 %), Belgium (20.8 %), the Netherlands (11.4 %), Lithuania (11.1 %) and France (11.0 %).

Figure 4: Intra EU exports of chemicals and chemical products, 2018
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Germany was also the largest exporter of machines to other EU Member States in 2018, accounting for 30.6 % of all intra-EU exports of machines amounting to EUR 94 billion (see Figure 5). This was 12.1 % of all German intra-EU exports. In four other Member States machines made up more than 10 % of their intra-EU exports. These were Italy (14.8 %), Denmark (12.3 %), Austria (11.5 %) and Czechia (11.1 %).

Figure 6: Intra EU exports of other machinery and equipment, 2018
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

The Netherlands was the largest exporter of computers to other EU Member States in 2018, accounting for 29.1 % of all intra-EU exports of computers, amounting to EUR 88 billion (see Figure 6). This was just under a fifth of all Dutch intra-EU exports. Six Member States had shares above 10 % for computers in their intra-EU exports. These were Czechia (16.7 %), Slovakia (16.0 %), Hungary (13.4 %), Malta (12.5 %) and Cyprus (11.8 %).

Figure 6: Intra EU exports of computer, electronic and optical products, 2018
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Germany (17.8 %, EUR 44 billion), followed closely by the Netherlands (16.8 %, EUR 41 billion), was the largest exporter of food products to other EU Member States in 2018, although for both of them this made up less than 10 % of their total exports (see Figure 7). There were seven Member States where food made up more than 10 % of their intra-EU exports. These were Cyprus (17.1 %), Greece (15.8 %), Denmark (14.7 %), Lithuania (12.5 %), Ireland (11.4 %) and Poland (10.0 %).

Figure 7: Intra EU exports of food products, 2018
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-057009)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

EU-28 data 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 non-EU countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated from Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. Because COMEXT is updated on a daily basis, data published on the website may differ from data stored in COMEXT in case of recent revisions.

Information on intra-EU trade is collected by the EU Member States using the various media placed at the disposal of the information providers. These may be paper or electronic declarations provided for at national level. The declarations are addressed directly to the competent national administrations.

European statistics on international trade in goods are compiled according to the EU concepts and definitions and may, therefore, differ from national data published by Member States.

Product classification

Classification of products by activity (CPA) is a statistical classification of products and services obligatory for all EU Member States. CPA classifies products by activity in which they are produced. Products are transportable goods and services. The CPA is a product classification whose elements are related to activities as defined by NACE Rev. 2. Each product - whether it be a transportable or a non-transportable good or a service - is assigned to one single NACE Rev. 2 activity. The linkage to activities as defined by NACE Rev. 2 gives the CPA a structure parallel to that of NACE Rev. 2 at all levels distinguished by NACE Rev. 2.

Unit of measure

Trade values are expressed in billions (109) or millions (106) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in case 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.

Comparability across countries

Intra-EU statistics of EU Member States are comparable across countries since:

  • European statistics are drawn up on the basis of a broadly common methodology and common definitions;
  • the problem of the FOB and CIF valuations generally plays a smaller role in view of the geographical context and the structure of intra-EU trade;
  • given the rules for determining reference periods, time delays should not have such a large impact — at least on annual results;
  • the trade partner for intra-EU imports is always the EU Member State of consignment, not the country of origin of the goods.

Context

The European internal market, also referred to as the Single Market, allows people and businesses to move and trade freely across the 28-nation group. The cornerstones of the single market are the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, known collectively as the ‘four freedoms’, which are included in the EU Treaty. Articles 34 to 36 of the Treaty of the functioning of the EU prohibit quantitative restrictions on imports, exports or goods in transit and all similar restrictive measures between EU Member States. All measures capable of hindering directly or indirectly such imports are considered to be quantitative restrictions. Additionally because the 28 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. Both in the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trade partners, EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively.

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International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)