Production and international trade in chemicals


Data from August 2018.

Planned update August 2019.

Highlights
In 2017 the EU was the largest exporter of chemical products in the world and the second largest importer (after the US).
The United States and Switzerland were the largest partners of the EU for both exports and imports of chemicals in 2017.
The average annual growth production of chemicals in the EU was 0.7 % between 2007 and 2017.

Extra-EU-28 trade in chemicals, EU-28, 2007-17

This article presents statistics on the European Union’s (EU) sold production and trade in chemical products. It focuses on the EU imports and exports of chemicals with the rest of the world, as well as on how they are related to the total EU sold production of chemicals.

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

Sold production of chemicals

The total sold production of chemicals in terms of value increased moderately from 2007 to 2017 (see Figure 1). From 2007 to 2009, the total sold production experienced a drop that was related to the global financial and economic crisis. It increased in the following years reaching a peak of EUR 680 billion in 2015, dropping slightly in 2016 but picking up again in 2017, reaching EUR 674 billion. The average annual growth over the period 2007-2017 was 0.7 %.

Figure 1: Sold production of chemicals, EU-28, 2007–17 (EUR billion)
Source:
Eurostat (Prodcom data code: DS-066341)


Growing trade in chemicals

Imports of chemicals into the EU-28 increased from EUR 121 billion in 2007 to EUR 195 billion in 2017 (see Figure 2). In 2009 they declined, due to the global financial and economic crisis . Between 2010 and 2017 they grew with only a small decrease in 2016. The average annual growth of imports over the whole period was 5 %.

The value of EU-28 exports of chemicals was significantly higher than the value of its imports, but followed the exact same trend line: increasing from EUR 197 billion in 2007 to EUR 333 billion in 2017 only dropping slightly in 2009 and 2016. The average annual growth of exports over the whole period was 5 %.

The EU-28 had a growing trade surplus in chemicals throughout the 2007–2017 period. The surplus grew from EUR 76 billion in 2007 to EUR 138 billion in 2017, equivalent to an average annual growth of 6 %.


Figure 2: Extra-EU-28 trade in chemicals, EU-28, 2007–17 (EUR billion)
Source:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)

EU is the largest exporter of chemical products

Looking at the major international players in chemicals trade, the EU-28 headed the list in 2017 with a total trade of EUR 528 billion, which consisted of EUR 333 billion of exports and EUR 195 billion of imports, thus recording the highest trade surplus ( EUR 138 billion) as shown in Figure 3. The United States had higher imports than the EU-28 (EUR 200 billion), but only 55 % of the EU-28 exports ( EUR 183 billion). China was both the third largest importer and exporter with values of EUR 148 billion and EUR 110 billion respectively.


Figure 3: EU and other major players in the international trade of chemicals, 2017 (EUR billion)
Sources:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995) and UN (Comtrade)


The United States and Switzerland were the largest partners for both exports and imports of chemicals in 2017 (see Figure 4). Among the nine largest partners measured in total trade (exports plus imports), the EU had a trade deficit with Switzerland (EUR 7.1 billion), Singapore (EUR 3.9 billion) and India (EUR 1.3 billion) and a trade surplus with the United States (EUR 27.8 billion), Japan (EUR 13.1 billion), Turkey (EUR 11.0 billion), Russia (EUR 7.1 billion), China (EUR 6.8 billion) and South Korea (EUR 0.4 billion). It should be noted the 'Other' category includes Brazil and Israel. With Brazil the EU had the a trade surplus of EUR 6.8 billion while with Israel there was a trade deficit of EUR 2.7 billion.

Figure 4: Share in total extra-EU trade of chemicals for main partners, 2017
Source:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)

The detailed table Microsoft Excel 2010 Logo.png on exports and imports of chemicals by partner, which form the basis for the analysis in this paragraph, is available here.



Sold production and trade of chemicals by product

The largest product group in chemicals is 'Medical and pharmaceutical products' (see Figure 5). In exports its share is 46 % and in imports it is 41 %. The only other group with share above 10 % is 'Organic chemicals' with 15 % of exports and 23 % of imports.

Figure 5: Share in total extra-EU trade of chemicals by product, 2017
Source:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)

Figure 6 shows that 'Organic chemicals' is the only group where the sold production fell between 2007 and 2017, while in all other groups the sold production increased.

Figure 6: Sold production of chemicals by product group, EU-28, 2007 and 2017 (EUR billion)
Source:
Eurostat (Prodcom data code: DS-066341)

Table 1 shows the level of the sold production for the top 20 chemical products in the EU-28. 'Other medicaments of mixed or unmixed products' topped the list of the most sold chemical products in the EU-28 in value terms in 2017 with EUR 76 billion. This was more than the next six products combined. The second most sold product was 'Ready-mixed concrete' (EUR 18 billion).


Table 1: Sold production of top 20 chemical products, EU-28, 2017 (EUR million)
Source:
Eurostat (Prodcom data code: DS-066341)

Table 2 summarises the EU sold production and trade of chemical products in 2017. It should be pointed out that this data comes from two distinct surveys: the data on sold production comes from PRODCOM and the data on trade from COMEXT. The production data is collected from producing enterprises and the survey is mandatory for enterprises with 20 employees or more. International trade data on the other hand is recorded in the EU Member States where the goods are placed under the customs procedures. Each time a product crosses a border it is registered as a 'trade', and if the same product crosses borders several times, it is recorded as several trades. These specificities should be considered when associating the production and external trade data.

'Medical and pharmaceutical products' represented 25 % of the sold production of EU chemicals in 2017, while its shares of extra EU-28 exports (47 %) and imports (39 %) were much higher. Its share in intra EU-28 exports was 33%. For 'Organic chemicals' the shares in sold production (15 %), extra EU-28 exports (13 %) and intra EU-28 exports (15 %) were roughly equal, while the share in imports was significantly higher (23 %).

Table 2: Sold production and trade of chemical products, EU-28, 2017 (EUR million)
Source:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995 and Prodcom data code: DS-066341)

The detailed table Microsoft Excel 2010 Logo.png on exports and imports of chemicals by product, which form the basis for the analysis in this paragraph, is available here.


Extra-EU trade in chemicals by Member State

Germany (EUR 39 billion), Belgium (EUR 31 billion) and the Netherlands (EUR 26 billion) were the only three EU Member States importing more than EUR 20 billion of chemicals from outside the EU in 2017 (see Table 3).

There were seven Member States exporting more than EUR 20 billion of chemicals outside the EU in 2017. These were Germany (EUR 89 billion), France (EUR 37 billion), Belgium (EUR 35 billion), Ireland (EUR 34 billion), the United Kingdom (EUR 29 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 24 billion) and Italy (EUR 23 billion).

In 2017, Germany registered the highest trade surplus in chemicals of any EU Member State (EUR 50 billion) followed by Ireland (EUR 27 billion), France (EUR 22 billion) and the United Kingdom (EUR 12 billion). The highest deficits were found in the Netherlands (EUR 2.6 billion), Romania (EUR 0.6 billion) and Greece (EUR 0.5 billion).


Table 3: Extra-EU-28 trade in chemicals, EU Member States, 2007 and 2015–17 (EUR million and %)
Source:
Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-018995)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Production of chemicals Industrial production data comes from PRODCOM. Prodcom provides statistics on the production of manufactured goods. Prodcom data includes:

  • the physical volume of production sold during the survey period;
  • the value of production sold during the survey period; and
  • for some products, the volume of total production during the survey period.

Prodcom data is obtained by the National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) who conduct a survey of enterprises. Eurostat calculates EU totals at EU-28 level from the national data.

International trade in chemicals Trade in goods 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. 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.

Chemical products are classified according to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) of the United Nations. Section 5 ‘Chemicals and related products, N.E.S.’ of SITC Rev. 4 is made up of the following divisions:

  • 51 Organic chemicals;
  • 52 Inorganic chemicals;
  • 53 Dyeing, tanning and colouring materials;
  • 54 Medicinal and pharmaceutical products;
  • 55 Essential oils and resinoids and perfume materials;
  • 56 Fertilizers (other than those of group 272);
  • 57 Plastics in primary forms;
  • 58 Plastics in non-primary forms; and
  • 59 Chemical materials and products, N.E.S.

Context

Through the seventh Environment Action Programme to 2020 (7th EAP) the EU sets policies on chemicals management, of which REACH (the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is the central element. The main aim of REACH is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals. This includes promoting alternative methods to assess the hazards of substances, the free circulation of substances on the internal market, and the enhancement of competitiveness and innovation in the EU chemical industry.

By providing knowledge about hazardous properties of chemicals and appropriate safety information, REACH is expected to enhance the communication and implementation of conditions of safe use in supply chains and the substitution of dangerous substances by less dangerous ones. In addition, through different types of measures on highly dangerous substances, EU policies aim to reduce the risks to human health and to ecosystems at EU level.

International trade data (t_ext)
International trade long-term indicators (t_ext_lti)
International trade short-term indicators (t_ext_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)
EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)
Detailed data by PRODCOM list (NACE Rev. 2) (prom2)
Sold production, exports and imports by PRODCOM list (NACE Rev.2) — annual data (DS_066341)
Total production by PRODCOM list (NACE Rev. 2) — annual data (DS_066342)
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