Main goods in extra-EU exports
Data extracted in April 2021
Planned article update: April 2022
Machinery and equipment, followed by pharmaceutical products and motor vehicles, was the most exported product from the EU every year between 2016 and 2020.
In 2020, the top 5 EU export products were machinery and equipment (13.0 % of total exports), pharmaceutical products (11.1 %), motor vehicles (10.7 %), chemical products (8.8 %) and computer, electronic and optical products (8.4 %).
Germany was the biggest EU exporter of all top 5 export products in 2020 - machinery and equipment, pharmaceutical products, motor vehicles, chemical products and computer, electronic and optical products.
Top 5 CPA categories in extra-EU exports, 2016 - 2020
This article focuses on the most significant goods by value (according to the CPA classification) in extra-EU exports and presents statistics for the EU from 2016 to 2020. 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 extra-EU exports for the five most exported product groups. Additionally, it shows the share these product groups have in each Member State's total extra-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.
EU exports by CPA groups
The CPA classification consists of 40 products. The 24 most exported products are shown in Table 1, while the other 16 are grouped as "Other". Among the 24 products, 21 recorded a drop in exports in 2020, due to the Covivd-19 pandemic. The three exceptions were pharmaceuticals, food products and agricultural products.
The composition of total exports of goods in 2020 in the 24 CPA groups in table 1 is shown Figure 1. The top five products 'Machinery and equipment n.e.c.' (machines) , 'Basic pharmaceutical products' (pharmaceuticals), 'Motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers' (cars) 'Chemical Products' (chemicals) and 'Computers, electronic and optical products'(computers) account for just over half of all exports. The rest of this article will concentrate on these top five products.
From 2016 to 2020, these five products were continuously in the top 5. Throughout the period the most exported product was machines whose exports grew from EUR 242 billion in 2016 to EUR 251 billion in 2020 (Figure 2). Cars fell from EUR 240 billion in 2016 to EUR 206 billion in 2020. The exports of pharmaceuticals, chemicals and computers were close together between 2016 and 2018. However, pharmaceuticals grew more strongly than any of the other top-5 products and overtook chemicals in 2018 and cars in 2020, becoming the second most exported product.
Other machinery and equipment
In 2020, Germany was the largest exporter of machines in the EU. Its exports of EUR 97 billion were 38.7 % of total EU exports to countries outside the EU. Italy (EUR 40 billion, 16.1% of total EU exports) was the second largest exporter. There were five Member States where the share of machines in their total exports to countries outside the EU was above 15 %. These were Luxembourg (19.7 %), Italy (19.0 %), Finland (17.6 %), Austria and Germany (both 16.9 %).
In 2020, Germany was the largest exporter of pharmaceuticals in the EU. Its exports of EUR 50 billion were 23.3 % of total EU exports to countries outside the EU. Ireland (EUR 40 billion, 18.7 % of total EU exports) was the second largest exporter. There were three Member States where the share of pharmaceuticals in their total exports to countries outside the EU was above 15 %. These were Ireland (43.1 %), Slovenia (38.8 %) and Belgium (25.3 %).
In 2020, Germany was the largest exporter of cars in the EU. Its exports of EUR 108 billion were 52.5 % of total EU exports to countries outside the EU. Belgium (EUR 13 billion, 6.4 % of total EU exports) was the second largest exporter. There were three Member States where the share of cars in their total exports to countries outside the EU was above 15 %. These were Slovakia (54.4 %), Czechia (20.0 %) and Germany (18.9 %).
In 2020, Germany was the largest exporter of chemicals in the EU. Its exports of EUR 46 billion were 27.4 % of total EU exports to countries outside the EU. France (EUR 24 billion, 14.0 % of total EU exports) was the second largest exporter. There were no Member States where the share of chemicals in their total exports to countries outside the EU was above 15 %, but there were six with shares above 10 %. These were Ireland (14.9 %), Lithuania (14.6 %), Belgium (13.9 %), Estonia (13.4 %), France (11.9 %) and the Netherlands (10.2 %).
Computer, electronic and optical products
In 2020, Germany was the largest exporter of computers in the EU. Its exports of EUR 53 billion were 32.6 % of total EU exports to countries outside the EU. The Netherlands (EUR 31 billion, 19.1 % of total EU exports) was the second largest exporter. There were five Member States where the share of computers in their total exports to countries outside the EU was above 15 %. These were Malta (29.5 %), Estonia (21.7 %), Czechia (21.4 %), Hungary (17.6 %) and the Netherlands (15.3 %).
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 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.
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.
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 millions (106) or billions (109) 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.
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 an important element of the external dimension of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ and 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.
- 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 - detailed data (detail)
- International trade in goods statistics - background
- International trade in goods (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_esms)
- User guide on European statistics on international trade in goods
- Regulation (EC) No 471/2009 of 6 May 2009 on Community statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries
- Summaries of EU Legislation: Extrastat: statistics relating to trade with non-EU countries
- Regulation (EU) No 92/2010 of 2 February 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 471/2009, as regards data exchange between customs authorities and national statistical authorities, compilation of statistics and quality assessment
- Regulation (EU) No 113/2010 of 9 February 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 471/2009 , as regards trade coverage, definition of the data, compilation of statistics on trade by business characteristics and by invoicing currency, and specific goods or movements.