Japan-EU – international trade in goods statistics
Data extracted in March 2021.
Planned article update: March 2022
EU trade in goods with Japan, 2010-2020
This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and Japan. It analyses the type of goods exchanged between the two economies and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges.
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.
Recent developments, impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis caused both exports and imports between the EU and Japan to fall in 2020. Exports reached a minimum of EUR 3.8 billion in August 2020. By December 2020 they had recovered to EUR 5.0 billion. Imports reached a minimum of EUR 3.9 billion in May 2020. By December 2020 they had recovered to EUR 5.2 billion.
Figure 2 compares trade with Japan to trade with other non EU countries. Between January 2019 and December 2020, exports to Japan decreased by 2.8 % while exports to other non EU countries decreased by 2.5 %. Imports from Japan decreased by 3.0 % while imports from other non EU countries decreased by 10.0 %. Compared to the same month in 2019, imports from Japan dropped most in May 2020 (- 27 %) while exports dropped most in August 2020 (- 26 %). In both case this was later than the largest drops for other non EU countries which occured in April 2020.
EU and Japan in world trade in goods
Figure 3 shows the world's largest traders fo goods. Japan (EUR 630 billion, 4.6 %) was the fourth largest exporter in the world, preceded by China (EUR 2 233 billion, 16.1 %), the EU (EUR 2 132 billion, 15.4 %) and the United States (EUR 1 468 billion, 10.6 %) and followed by South Korea (EUR 484 billion, 3.5 %). Japan (EUR 644 billion, 4.5 %) also was the fourth largest importer in the world, preceded by the United States (EUR 2 293 billion, 16.1 %), the EU (EUR 1 940 billion, 13.7%) and China (EUR 1 857 billion, 13.1 %) and followed by the United Kingdom (EUR 622 billion, 4.4 %).
The imports and exports of goods of the EU and Japan indexed at 100 in 2009 for the period to 2019 are shown in Figure 4. It also shows the cover ratio (exports / imports) for this period. Exports from the EU were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2019 (180). Imports to the EU were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2019 (163). The cover ratio for the EU was lowest in 2011 (97 %) and highest in 2016 (116 %) and was 110 % in 2019. Exports from Japan were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2011 (142) and were 121 in 2019. Imports to Japan were lowest in 2009 (100) and highest in 2012 (160) and were 131 in 2019. The cover ratio for Japan was lowest in 2014 (85 %) and highest in 2010 (111 %) and was 98 % in 2019.
Exports to Japan increased but imports decreased between 2010 and 2020.
The position of Japan among the largest trade partners of the EU in 2020 can be seen in Figure 5. The four largest export partners of the EU were the United States (18.3 %), the United Kingdom (14.4 %), China (10.5 %) and Switzerland (7.4 %). The four largest import partners of the EU were China (22.4 %), the United States (11.8 %), the United Kingdom (9.8 %) and Switzerland (6.3 %).Figure 3b has some more details. It shows that Japan (EUR 54 billion, 2.8 %) was the seventh largest export partner of the EU, between Turkey (EUR 70 billion, 3.6 %) and Norway (EUR 49 billion, 2.5 %). In imports Japan (EUR 55 billion, 3.2 %) was the seventh largest partner of the EU, between Turkey (EUR 63 billion, 3.6 %) and South Korea (EUR 44 billion, 2.6 %).
Figure 6 shows the exports, imports and trade balance between the EU and Japan from 2010 to 2020. In 2010, the EU had a trade deficit with Japan of EUR 19 billion. This changed more than once during the whole period. In 2020 there was a deficit of EUR 400 million. EU exports to Japan were highest in 2019 (EUR 61 billion) and lowest in 2010 (EUR 39 billion). EU imports from Japan were highest in 2019 (EUR 63 billion) and lowest in 2013 (EUR 49 billion). In 2020 both exports and imports dropped considerably, with imports even falling below their 2010 level.
EU-Japan trade by type of goods
The breakdown of EU trade with Japan by SITC groups is shown in Figure 7. The red shades denote the primary products: food & drink, raw materials and energy, while the blue shades show the manufactured goods: chemicals, machinery & vehicles and other manufactured goods. Finally, other goods are shown in green. In 2020, EU exports of manufactured goods (80 %) had a higher share than primary goods (15 %). The most exported manufactured goods were machinery & vehicles (35 %), followed by chemicals (24 %) and other manufactured products (22 %). In 2020, EU imports of manufactured goods (97 %) also had a higher share than primary goods (2 %). The most imported manufactured goods were machinery & vehicles (64 %), followed by other manufactured products (20 %) and chemicals (14 %).
Figure 8 shows the evolution of EU imports and exports by SITC group since 2010. In 2020, the EU had trade surpluses in food & drink (EUR 6.3 billion), chemicals (EUR 5.4 billion), other products (EUR 2.0 billion), raw materials (EUR 1.0 billion), other manufactured products (EUR 0.9 billion). The EU had a trade deficit in machinery & vehicles (EUR 16.1 billion).
EU-Japan most traded goods
More detail about the goods exchanged between the EU and Japan is given in Figure 9, showing the 20 most traded goods at SITC-3 level. These top 20 goods covered 50 % of total trade in goods in 2020. Twelve belonged to machinery and vehicles, four to chemicals, two each to food and drink and other manufactured products. The most traded product group at this level was motor cars and motor vehicles. Another interesting way to look at the data is to investigate the cover ratio (exports / imports) of traded goods, showing the direction of the trade flows between the two economies. These ratios can be found in the right-hand margin of Figure 9. Eight products were below 50 %, indicating EU imports from Japan were at least twice as large as EU exports to Japan. Four products were above 200 %, indicating EU exports to Japan were at least twice as large as EU imports from Japan. Eight products were between 50 % and 200 %, showing more balanced trade.
Trade with Japan by Member State
Table 1a shows the imports of goods from Japan by Member State. The three largest importers from Japan in the EU were Germany (EUR 15 450 million), Belgium (EUR 9 577 million) and the Netherlands (EUR 9 556 million). Luxembourg (16.7 %) had the highest share for Japan in its extra-EU imports.
Table 1b shows the exports of goods to Japan by Member State. The three largest exporters to Japan in the EU were Germany (EUR 17 637 million), Italy (EUR 7 125 million) and France (EUR 5 695 million). Malta (10.7 %) had the highest share for Japan in its extra-EU exports.
The trade in goods balance between the EU Member States and Japan is shown in Table 1c. It shows that 17 Member States had a trade surplus with Japan. The largest surplus was held by Italy (EUR 3 480 million), followed by Germany (EUR 2 187 million) and Ireland (EUR 1 944 million). There were ten Member States that had a trade deficit with Japan. The largest deficit was held by Belgium (EUR 6 389 million), followed by the Netherlands (EUR 4 643 million) and Poland (EUR 1 266 million).
Source data for tables and graphs
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 third 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 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 Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the 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-27 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-27 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-27 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-27 trade partners.
Data for the non EU-27 countries used in figures 1-3 are taken from the UNCTAD database of the United Nations. For the calculation of shares, the world trade is defined as the sum of EU trade with non-EU countries (source: Eurostat) plus the international trade of non-EU countries (source: UNCTAD).
According to 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.
Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC). A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.
Unit of measure
Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (109) 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.
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.
Direct access to
- International trade in goods (t_ext_go), see:
- 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 (ext_go), see:
- 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)
- EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)
- International trade in goods statistics - background
- International trade in goods (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_agg_esms)
- User guide on European statistics on international trade in goods