European statistics on international trade in goods

International trade in goods statistics (ITGS) published by Eurostat measure the value and quantity of goods traded between the EU Member States (intra-EU trade) and goods traded by the EU Member States with non-EU countries (extra-EU trade). ‘Goods’ means all movable property including electricity. ‘European’ means that the statistics are compiled on the basis of the concepts and definitions set out in EU legislation. European ITGS are the official harmonised source of information about exports, imports and the trade balances of the EU, its Member States and the euro area.

Type of users and requirements

As international trade forms a major part of the world economy, statistics on trade in goods are an instrument of primary importance for numerous public and private sector decision makers. For example, international trade statistics

  • enable EU authorities to prepare multilateral and bilateral negotiations under the common commercial policy;
  • enable EU authorities to evaluate the progress of the Single Market and the integration of EU economies;
  • enable EU authorities to define and implement anti-dumping policies;
  • constitute an essential source of information for balance of payments statistics, national accounts and economic studies; and
  • help EU businesses conduct market research and define their commercial strategy.

Statistics satisfy these needs in a variety of ways. Users may need either annual aggregated or detailed monthly data on products or partner countries. They may be interested in trade values in current prices or at constant prices. Alternatively, their interest may be in quantities rather than in values. These examples, which are far from exhaustive, show the diversity of users and their requirements. Eurostat tries to meet these various needs and to adapt to a changing environment, such as changes due to globalisation.

Extrastat and Intrastat: two data collection systems

Traditionally ITGS are based on the data collected by customs authorities on trade transactions between countries. Customs declarations are used for statistical purposes as the basic data source which provides detailed information on exports and imports of goods with a geographical breakdown.

The first piece of EU legislation on ITGS was adopted in 1975; it provided general guidelines on data collection and obliged Member States to send their data to Eurostat. The advent of the Single Market on 1 January 1993, with its removal of customs formalities between Member States and subsequent loss of trade statistics data sources, required the establishment of a new data collection system: Intrastat.. Since then ITGS are based on two data collection systems: Extrastat and Intrastat.

Extrastat data on trade in goods with non-EU countries are collected by customs authorities and are based on the records of trade transactions in customs declarations, whereas Intrastat data are directly collected from intra-EU trade operators once a month.