In 2020, the trade of the European Union of 27 Member States (EU) was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with significant falls observed for both exports (-9.4%) and imports (-11.6%) compared with 2019.
Looking at the last decade, the export growth rate, after recording particularly high values (12% in 2011 and 9% in 2012), remained positive until 2019 before sharply decreasing in 2020. The import growth rate peaked in 2011 (12%), followed by small fluctuations between 2012 and 2015, before growing significantly in 2017 and 2018, and closing the decade with a sharp decrease in 2020.
In 2020, the EU trade in goods balance was in surplus by €217 billion. Looking at the trend over time, after recording a small deficit in 2011, the EU trade balance subsequently recorded a continuous surplus, peaking at €264 billion in 2016. The surplus decreased in 2017 and 2018, then increased again in 2019 and 2020.
This information comes from recently published data on international trade in goods. This news item presents only a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.
The majority of EU Member States traded mainly inside the European single market
The proportion of intra-EU and extra-EU flows in total trade in goods varied considerably across the EU Member States, reflecting to some degree historical ties and geographical location.
Among the EU Member States, the highest share of intra-EU trade in 2020 for both imports and exports was recorded in Luxembourg. In contrast, Ireland was the EU Member State with the largest share of trade for both imports and exports with third countries, which is not surprising as its first trade partner is the United Kingdom.
In 2020, the Netherlands was the entry point of the EU, importing a large share of goods from third countries and dispatching them within the EU. In contrast, Cyprus imported a large share of goods from EU Member States, while the largest share was exported outside the EU.
For more information
- Eurostat visualisation on International trade in goods
- Eurostat Statistics Explained article on International trade in goods.
- Eurostat database on International trade in goods.
- 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 were 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.
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