Extra-EU trade in manufactured goods
From Statistics Explained
- Data from July 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
The Standard international trade classification (SITC) distinguishes four main categories (sections) of manufactured goods:
- chemicals (SITC 5);
- manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (SITC 6);
- machinery and vehicles (SITC 7);
- miscellaneous manufactured articles (SITC 8);
Sections 6 and 8 are often grouped together as 'other manufactured goods'.
Main statistical findings
The EU exports consist mainly of manufactured products: their share has annually been more than 80 % of total EU exports. In 2011, exports of 'machinery and vehicles' and 'other manufactured goods' together reached EUR 1 000 billion, with an increase of about 40 % in comparison with the lower level of 2009.
About 60 % of EU imports are manufactured goods. The breakdown diverges from exports: 'machinery and vehicles' and chemical products account for a smaller share while the share of 'other manufactured goods' is similar to that for exports.
The surplus in trade of manufactured goods reached a peak of EUR 264 billion in 2011, more than double of the surplus registered in 2006.
The chemicals sector (SITC Section 5) contains various chemical goods such as organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, plastics and pharmaceutical products.
Trade in chemicals has grown steadily from 2006 to 2011 but its share of the total EU trade has remained quite stable: in 2011 chemicals accounted for 16% of exports and 9% of imports. Besides machinery and vehicles, the chemicals sector is the only product group where the EU posts a trade surplus. The surplus reached almost EUR 100 billion in 2011.
The most important products within the group, both for exports and imports, are pharmaceutical products and organic chemicals.
Majority of imports come from a small number of countries: in 2011 the six biggest suppliers accounted for over two thirds of total EU imports. The USA was the main source, with a proportion of 27 %, followed by Switzerland with 21 %. The USA (24 % in 2011) and Switzerland (9 %) were also the main partner countries for exports.
Machinery and vehicles
‘Machinery and vehicles’ (SITC Section 7) includes power generating and industrial machinery, computers, electric and electronic parts and equipment, road vehicles and parts, ships, airplanes and railway equipment.
‘Machinery and vehicles’ is the most important individual product group in the external trade of the EU, accounting for 42 % of the total EU exports and 26 % of imports in 2011. The group records also the largest surplus in EU trade: EUR 208.7 billion in 2011.
The main exported products within the group are road vehicles, industrial machinery and electrical machinery, while the imports are dominated by electrical machinery, telecommunications equipment and IT products.
The USA is the biggest destination country of EU exports, although its proportion diminished from 22 % to 16 % between 2006 and 2011. Concerning the other main partner countries, exports to China and Russia increased strongly during the same period.
The USA and Japan are still two of the top three source countries for imports although their importance has decreased. In 2006 they covered 33 % of EU imports but only 26 % in 2011. During the same period China’s share increased from 23 % to 33 %.
Other manufactured goods
‘Other manufactured goods’ (SITC Sections 6 and 8) is a heterogeneous group consisting of manufactured goods which range from basic semi-manufactured goods such as leather, rubber, wood, paper, textiles, metals, building fixtures and fittings to more labor-intensive products like clothes, shoes and accessories, scientific instruments, clocks, watches and cameras.
The structure of exports and imports, in terms of products, differs to some extent. The EU exports more semi-manufactured goods such as metals and metal products while for imports manufactured goods are more relevant, in particular clothing.
After a fall in 2009, the value of both imports and exports rose constantly in 2010 and 2011. In this products group the EU posts a trade deficit that reached its maximum in 2007 (EUR -72.5 billion), but then remained quite far from that record.
Since overtaking the USA in 2001, China has been the biggest supplier to the EU in this product group, representing a share of 31 % in 2011. Other important suppliers include the USA, Switzerland and Turkey. The main destinations for exports are the USA, Switzerland, Russia and China.
Data sources and availability
EU data come from Eurostat’s COMEXT database. COMEXT is the Eurostat reference database for international trade. 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 from Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. 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.
EU data are compiled according to EU guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 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 EU is the world's biggest exporter of manufactured goods, and is a global market leader for high-quality products. Thanks to some of its key assets such as chemicals, pharmacy products, motor vehicles and non-electrical machinery, the European Union's trade balance for manufactured products is improving greatly, partially offsetting the rise in the energy deficit.
Further Eurostat information
- Almost complete recovery for EU-27 trade in 2010 - Statistics in focus 39/2011
- EU-27 imports of telecom products increased by 61% over 2000 – 2008 - Statistics in focus 103/2009
- EU-27 trade in chemical products in 2007 - Statistics in focus 111/2008
- EU-27 trade in motor cars in 2007 - Statistics in focus 79/2008
- External and intra-European Union trade - Data 2004-2009 - Pocketbook
- International trade, see:
- International trade data (t_ext)
- International trade long-term indicators (t_ext_lti)
- International trade short-term indicators (t_ext_sti)
- International trade data (ext)
- International trade long-term indicators (ext_lti)
- International trade short-term indicators (ext_sti)
- International trade detailed data
Methodology / Metadata
- International trade data (ESMS metadata file - ext_esms)
- Quality report on international trade statistics - Edition 2010
- Statistics on the trading of goods – user guide