Production and international trade in high-tech products

Data extracted in April 2021

Planned update: September 2021

Highlights

In 2020, high-tech products represented 20% of total imports and 18% of total exports.

In 2020, China was the main partner for high-tech imports to the EU ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom.

In 2020, the United States was the main partner for EU exports of high-tech products followed by China and the United Kingdom.

[[File:Production and international trade in high-tech products 2021 V3.xlsx]]

Total sold production of high-tech products, EU, 2009-2019


This article focuses on the trade and production of products identified as being of high-technology. High-tech products are divided into nine groups according to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC — Rev. 4): Aerospace, computers and office machines, electronics-telecommunications, pharmacy, scientific instruments, electrical machinery, chemistry, non-electrical machinery and armament.

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

Manufacturing of high-tech products

In 2018 the EU had an estimated number of 40 358 enterprises in the high-tech manufacturing sector (Table 1), which represents 0.2 % of the total number of enterprises in the EU. High-tech manufacturers were most numerous in Germany (8 461), Italy (5 318) and Poland (4 446). They had the highest turnover in Germany (EUR 205 billion), France (EUR 177 billion) and Italy (EUR 59 billion) and the highest value added in Germany (EUR 66 billion), France (EUR 42 billion) and Italy (EUR 20 billion). Relative to the total business population the share of high tech manufacturers was highest in Croatia (0.4 %), Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and Finland (all 0.3 %). Relative to the turnover in the total business population the share of high tech manufacturers was highest in Hungary (5.3 %) and France (4.6 %). Relative to the value added in the total business population the share of high tech manufacturers was highest in Belgium (5.6 %), Hungary (5.5 %) and Slovenia (5.4 %).

Table 1 :High-tech manufacturing statistics, by country, 2018
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_sca_r2)

Sold production of high-tech products

Sold production of high tech products increased from EUR 220 billion in 2009 to EUR 333 billion in 2019. This was equivalent to an average annual increase of 4.2 %.

Figure 1: EU total sold production of high-tech products (¹), 2009-2019
Source: Eurostat (Prodcom database DS-045339)

In 2019, the largest category in production of high tech products was pharmacy with EUR 85 billion. This was also the category with the highest average annual growth rate (10.7 %) between 2009 and 2019 . There was also growth in the production of armament (7.0%), aerospace, scientific instruments (both 6.8 %) and electrical machinery (4.5 %), electronics-telecommunications (0.9 %) and chemistry (0.2 %). Production fell in computers office machines (-2.2 %), and non-electrical machinery (-0.8 %).

Figure 2: EU total sold production of high-tech products by sector, 2009-19
Source: Eurostat (Prodcom database DS-045339)

In 2019, pharmacy (26 %) was the largest category in the production of high tech goods (Figure 3). Electronics-telecommunications (23 %), scientific instruments (18 %) and aerospace (15 %) were the other categories with a share above 10 %.

Figure 3: SEU sold production of high-tech products, by sector, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Prodcom database DS-045339)

EU imports of high-tech products

In 2020 more than half of the EU imports of high-tech products from non EU countries came from China (36 %) and the United States (19 %) as shown in Figure 4. Between 2010 and 2020 imports increased from EUR 244 billion to EUR 345 billion, equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 3.5 %. Among the top six partners imports from China increased the most in absolute terms, from EUR 81 billion to EUR 125 billion, while Vietnam with 33.0 % had the highest average annual growth rate.

Figure 4: EU imports of high-tech products, top 6 partners, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Prodcom database DS-045339)

Figure 5 shows the top 20 partners (in 2020) from which the EU imported high-tech products. The first 11 partners accounted for 90 % of the total imports. Combined the top 20 accounted for 96 % of total imports.

Figure 5: EU imports of high-tech products, top 20 partners, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

The largest category in EU imports of high tech product was electronics-telecommunications with EUR 136 billion (Figure 6). The category with the highest average annual growth rate between 2010 and 2020 was pharmacy (8.1 %) followed by armament (6.2 %) while imports fell in chemistry (-2.2 %).

Figure 6: EU imports of high-tech products by product group, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-018995)

For four (China, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and Malaysia) of the six top partners, the largest category in EU imports of high-tech products was electronics-telecommunications in 2020 (Figure 7). Only for Switzerland (pharmacy) and the United States (aerospace) a different category was the largest. Both the United States and China were the top partners in four categories, while the United Kingdom was the main partner in the chemistry category.

Figure 7: EU imports of high-tech products by product group, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

Between 2010 and 2020 high-tech imports from China (EUR 44 billion), the United States( EUR 22 billion) and Vietnam (EUR 14 billion) increased most (Table 2). The main contributing category to the increase of imports from China was electronics-telecommunications with EUR 23 billion. The main contributing category to the increase of imports from the United States was pharmacy with EUR 11 billion. The main contributing category to the increase of imports from Vietnam was electronics-telecommunication with EUR 11 billion.

Table 2: Variations in EU imports of high-tech products for top 20 partners, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

EU exports of trade in high-tech products

In 2020 over a quarter of the EU exports of high-tech products to non EU countries went to the United States (26 %) followed at some distance by China (12 %) and the United Kingdom (10 %). Between 2010 and 2020 these exports increased from EUR 216 billion to EUR 341billion, equivalent to an annual average growth rate of 4.7 %. Among the top six partners exports to the United States increased the most in absolute terms, from EUR 38 billion to EUR 89 billion, while China with 9.1 % had the highest average annual growth rate (figure 8).

Figure 8: EU exports of high-tech products, top 6 partners, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

Figure 9 shows the top 20 partners to which the EU exports high-tech products in 2020. The top 16 export destinations account for 80 % of total exports.

Figure 9 : EU exports of high-tech products, top 20 partners, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

The largest category in the exports of high tech product was pharmacy with EUR 100 billion in 2020 (Figure 10). This was also the category with the highest average annual growth rate (13.0 %) between 2010 and 2020, followed by armament (6.5 %). The other categories all grew between 0 and 5 %.

Figure 10: EU exports of high-tech products by product group, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-018995)

In 2020, for the United States, Switzerland and Japan the largest category in EU exports of high-tech products was pharmacy (Figure 11). For China, the United Kingdom and Russia it was electronics-telecommunication. In six categories the United States was the largest export destination for EU exports. A different top partner was only seen in electronics-telecommunication (China), computers office machines and electrical machinery (both the United Kingdom).

Figure 11: EU exports of high-tech products by product group, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

Between 2010 and 2020, the largest increases in high-tech exports were to the United States (EUR 51 billion), China( EUR 24 billion) and Switzerland (EUR 10 billion) as shown in Table 3. The main contributing category to the increase of exports to the United States was pharmacy with EUR 35 billion. The main contributing category to the increase of exports to China was electronics-telecommunications with EUR 11 billion. The main contributing category to the increase of exports to Switzerland also was pharmacy with EUR 8 billion.

Table 3: Variations in EU exports of high-tech products for top 20 partners, 2010-2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

EU trade balance in high-tech products

The EU has a large trade deficit with China (EUR 84 billion) in 2020 (Figure 12). The only other partner with a trade deficit exceeding EUR 10 billion is Vietnam (EUR 13 billion), The EU has a trade surplus above EUR 10 billion with Russia, the United Kingdom (both EUR 11 billion) and the United States (EUR 24 billion).

Figure 12: EU trade balance in high-tech products for top 20 partners, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

The trade deficit with China in 2020 is largely due to deficits in electronics-telecommunications (EUR 50 billion) and computers office machines (EUR 43 billion) as shown in Table 4. The surplus with the United Kingdom and Russia was spread over several categories. With the United States there is a large deficit in aerospace (EUR 11 billion) but an even larger surplus in pharmacy (EUR 27 billion).

Table 4: EU trade balance of high-tech products by product group for top 20 partners, 2020
Source: Eurostat (Comext database DS-18995)

Data sources

Multiple data sources High-tech statistics uses various other domains and sources mainly within Eurostat's official statistics:

  • International trade in goods statistics (COMEXT);
  • Statistics on the production of manufactured goods (PRODCOM);
  • Community innovation survey (CIS);
  • Human resources in science and technology (HRST);
  • Labour force survey (LFS);
  • Structural business statistics (SBS);
  • Research and development (R & D);
  • Structure of earnings survey (SES);
  • Patent database (PATSTAT).

The coverage and availability of high-tech statistics are then dependent on these other primary sources.

Trade in high-tech products

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 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 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 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 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 trade partners.

The product approach is used for data on high-tech trade. The product list is based on the calculations of R & D intensity by groups of products (R & D expenditure/total sales). The groups classified as high-technology products are aggregated on the basis of the Standard international trade classification (SITC). Due to the revision of SITC from SITC Rev. 3 to SITC Rev. 4, the definition of high-tech products also changed in 2011. The data in this article use the high-tech aggregation by SITC Rev. 4. This list, based on the OECD definition, contains technical products of which the manufacturing involved a high intensity of R & D.

Production of high-tech products

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

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

The 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.

Data limitations

List of the PRODCOM products without correspondence in COMEXT:

2844 10 10 2844 30 51 8523 49 25 8523 51 99
2844 10 30 2844 30 55 8523 49 31 8710 00 00
2844 10 50 2844 30 61 8523 49 39 9301 10 00
2844 10 90 2844 30 69 8523 49 45 9301 20 00
2844 20 25 2844 30 91 8523 49 51 9301 90 00
2844 20 35 2844 30 99 8523 49 59 9305 91 00
2844 20 51 2844 40 10 8523 49 91 9306 30 30
2844 20 59 2844 40 20 8523 49 93 9306 90 10
2844 20 99 2844 40 30 8523 49 99
2844 30 11 2844 40 80 8523 51 91
2844 30 19 2844 50 00 8523 51 93

Labels for these codes can be found HERE.

Context

In the context of economic globalisation, technology is a key factor in enhancing growth and competitiveness in business. High-tech industries are expanding most strongly in international trade and their dynamism helps to improve performance in other sectors. Investment in research, development, innovation and skills constitutes a key policy area for the EU as it is essential to economic growth and to the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Certain WTO Members including the EU have joined the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) which provides duty free access to high-tech products, including computers, telephones and inputs and components such as semiconductors. The new, expanded ITA agreement concluded recently will reduce the costs for consumers and for manufacturing IT products in Europe. It will offer new market access for many of Europe's high tech companies – some of which are leaders in their fields – and encourage innovation by simplifying access to state-of-the-art technology. As such, it will contribute to the further development of the digital economy in the EU.

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Traditional international trade database access (ComExt)
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_056120)
High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (htec)
High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services: economic statistics at national level (htec_eco)
Venture capital investments (htec_vci)
Economic statistics on high-tech industries and Knowledge Intensive Services at the national level (from 2008 onwards, NACE Rev. 2) (htec_eco_sbs2)