Statistics Explained

World trade in goods and services - an overview

Data extracted in July 2019.

Planned update: July 2022.

Highlights

In 2018, international trade in goods and services represented 17.6 % of the EU’s GDP.

The EU’s share of world exports of goods and services was 17.8 % in 2017.

Value of international trade in goods and services, selected countries, 2018
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and International Monetary Fund (Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics)

Globalisation patterns in EU trade and investment is an online Eurostat publication presenting a summary of recent European Union (EU) statistics on economic aspects of globalisation, focusing on patterns of EU trade and investment.

Within the context of globalisation, stronger links between some of the world’s most rapidly growing economies — in the form of increased levels of trade and cooperation — can provide a stimulus to support continued economic development.

Most economists tend to agree that ‘open’ economies grow at a faster pace than ‘closed’ ones, as international trade has the potential to promote economic growth through increasing external demand for goods and services, while at the same time providing consumers with greater choice (and often lower prices), fostering efficiency and productivity gains and supporting innovation. Enterprises and households are more likely to consume goods and services from an international partner if such transactions are free from tariffs and other trade barriers, thereby allowing goods and services to cross borders in a frictionless and efficient manner.

At a practical level, this means the European Union’s (EU’s) international trade policy has been designed around promoting reciprocal market opening and trade liberalisation, creating new opportunities for increased levels of trade (for both goods and services), investment, innovation and productivity growth.

Statistics on international trade in goods and services

The main methodological reference used for the production of statistics on international trade in goods and services is the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6).

Full article

World exports of goods and services

World exports of goods and services (excluding intra-EU trade) reached nearly EUR 16 trillion in 2017

In 2017, the global value of exports of goods and services was EUR 15.9 trillion (or EUR 15 900 billion). Figure 1 shows that the highest levels of trade in goods and services were recorded, unsurprisingly, in some of the biggest economies.

Fresher data are available for the EU-28 and for individual countries.The EU-28 exported more goods and services in 2018 (EUR 2.9 trillion) than any individual country and the EU-28 also recorded the highest level of imports (EUR 2.7 trillion), just ahead of the United States (EUR 2.6 trillion).

The largest trade surplus for international trade in goods and services — as measured by the difference between exports and imports — was recorded in the EU-28 (EUR 257 billion in 2018), followed by Russia (EUR 139 billion). By contrast, the largest deficit was registered in the United States (EUR 531 billion), followed at some distance by India (EUR 90 billion).

Figure 1: Value of international trade in goods and services, selected countries, 2018
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and International Monetary Fund (Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics)

International trade in goods and services

In 2018, international trade in goods and services represented 17.6 % of the EU-28’s GDP

The information presented in Figure 2 shows that the importance of international trade in goods and services between some of the world’s largest trading countries was quite different when measured in relation to economic output (gross domestic product (GDP)). The ratio presented in Figure 2 is based on the average value of exports and imports relative to GDP and provides a means for analysing the ‘depth’ of globalisation or the ‘openness’ of individual economies.

Increased trade liberalisation from the 1990s onwards provided a stimulus for international trade in goods and services. Within the EU-28, the ratio of international trade in goods and services relative to GDP rose from 14.9 % in 2008 to 17.6 % by 2018, thereby confirming that trade in goods and services was growing at a faster pace than the overall EU-28 economy. This relative shift may, at least in part, be attributed to the growing importance of trade in intermediate goods, which itself was driven by higher levels of international outsourcing as global production chains were established.

Ratio of trade in goods and services relative to GDP

… while much higher ratios for trade to GDP were recorded in some Asian economies

Two relatively small Asian economies reported the highest degrees of exposure to international trade, as the average value of exports and imports for goods and services (relative to GDP) in Hong Kong represented 188.1 % of its GDP in 2018, while the corresponding ratio for Singapore was 163.1 %. These figures could be contrasted with much lower ratios for some of the world’s largest economies — China (19.1 %), the EU-28 (17.6 %) and the United States (13.7 %).

The ratio of trade in goods and services relative to GDP fell in several of the world’s leading economies between 2008 and 2018 and this was particularly the case in Singapore, South Korea, China (where the domestic economy grew at a faster pace than the value of international trade, even though China captured a growing share of world trade), South Africa and India. The most notable exception — where the ratio increased strongly — was Mexico, where the ratio increased from 29.1 % in 2008 to 40.1 % in 2018.

Figure 2: International trade in goods and services relative to GDP, selected countries, 2008 and 2018
(%, relative to GDP)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and (nama_10_gdp), International Monetary Fund (Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics), the World Bank (Databank — World Development Indicators) and United Nations Statistics Division (National Accounts Main Aggregates Database)

The EU-28’s share of international trade in goods and services

The EU-28’s share of world exports of goods and services was 17.8 % in 2017

On average, every day the EU-28 exports millions of euros worth of goods and services to the rest of the world, while it imports millions more. While the value of the EU’s international trade in goods and services with the rest of the world has expanded at a relatively fast pace compared with the value of trade between EU Member States (intra-EU trade), this has not prevented a gradual reduction in the EU’s share of global trade. Between 2007 and 2012 the EU-28’s share of global trade fell strongly, before recovering somewhat through until 2017.

In 2017, some 17.8 % of world exports for goods and services originated from the EU-28; as such, its share of world exports was 1.0 percentage points lower than a decade earlier (18.8 %), but 1.3 percentage points higher than the share (16.5 %) recorded in 2012. It should be noted that the high share in 2007 preceded the global financial and economic crisis, which impacted strongly and for several years on the EU’s economy. By contrast, there was a more marked reduction in the share of the EU-28 in world imports for goods and services, as its share of the global trade was 16.3 % in 2017, a reduction of 3.7 percentage points compared with a decade earlier.

The most striking feature concerning developments for world shares of international trade in goods and services between 2007 and 2017 was the continued progression of China as one of the world’s leading trading nations. China’s share of the world exports for goods and services rose from 9.8 % to 13.5 % during the period under consideration, while its share of imports grew at an even faster pace, increasing by 5.1 percentage points to reach 12.6 % in 2017 (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: World trade for goods and services, selected countries, 2007-2017
(% of total)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and International Monetary Fund (Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics)

Trade flows for international trade in goods and services

In 2017, goods accounted for more than three quarters of world exports of goods and services

Figure 4 presents information on the relative importance of trade flows for both international trade in goods and international trade in services (more detailed information on these two types of products are provided in separate articles on goods and services). In 2017, goods accounted for just over three quarters (76.6 %) of the world’s total trade. Fresher data are available for individual countries and in 2018, the share of goods in total exports peaked at 94.0 % in Mexico and 91.2 % in China. By contrast, the relative weight of services in total exports was far more pronounced in the EU-28 (31.7 % of the total) and the United States (33.1 %), reaching a high of 38.2 % in India.

The EU-28 ran a trade surplus for both goods and services in 2018 and therefore an overall trade surplus for goods and services combined. This was in contrast to the situation at the onset of the global financial and economic crisis 10 years earlier, when the EU-28 ran a deficit for its trade in goods that outweighed its surplus for services resulting in an overall trade deficit. However, there were quite often considerable differences in the balance of trade between goods and services in other economies. For example, China had a particularly large trade surplus for goods (but a deficit for services), while the Australian, Brazilian, Japanese, Russian, Singaporean, South African and South Korean economies were also relatively specialised in exporting goods and were more reliant on importing services, but nevertheless had an overall trade surplus for goods and services combined. Hong Kong also recorded an overall surplus, but resulting from a surplus for services that was slightly larger than its deficit for goods. The remaining five economies presented in this article all recorded overall deficits for trade in goods and services. For India, Turkey and the United States, this resulted from larger deficits for goods (particularly so in the case of the United States) than their surpluses for services. Canada and Mexico both reported trade deficits both for goods and for services.

Figure 4: Share of international trade in goods and services, selected countries, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (bop_eu6_q) and International Monetary Fund (Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics)

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International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)

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