Extra-EU trade in manufactured goods

From Statistics Explained

Data from May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article focuses on the structure and evolution of the European Union (EU) international trade in manufactured goods: imports and exports at EU level.

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'.

Figure 1: EU-28 trade in manufactured goods, 2008-2013 (EUR 1 000 million)
Source: Eurostat (TET00062)

Main statistical findings

Figure 2: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 exports of chemical products, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00031)
Figure 3: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 imports of chemical products, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00031)
Figure 4: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 exports of machinery and vehicles, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00030)
Figure 5: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 imports of machinery and vehicles, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00030)
Figure 6: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 exports of other manufactured goods, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00029)
Figure 7: Main trading partners' shares of EU-28 imports of other manufactured goods, 2013 (%)
Source: Eurostat (TET00029)

The EU exports consist mainly of manufactured products: their share has annually been around 80 % of total EU exports. In 2013, exports of 'machinery and vehicles' and 'other manufactured goods' together reached EUR 1 365 billion, with an increase of about 50 % 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 392 billion in 2013, more than double of the surplus registered in 2008.


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 2009 to 2012 but it showed a contraction in 2013; its share of the total EU trade has remained quite stable: in 2013 chemicals accounted for 16% of exports and 9% of imports.

After machinery and vehicles, the chemicals sector is the product group where the EU posts the second bigger trade surplus. The surplus reached EUR 116 billion in 2013. 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 2013 the six biggest suppliers accounted for almost two thirds of total EU imports. The USA was the main source, with a proportion of 28 %, followed by Switzerland with 21 %. The USA (23% in 2013) and Switzerland (9%) were also the main partner countries for exports.

Machinery and vehicles

‘Machinery and vehicles’ is the most important individual product group in the international trade of the EU, accounting for 41 % of the total EU exports and 26 % of imports in 2013. The group records also the largest surplus in EU trade: EUR 275 billion in 2013.

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 29 % to 17 % between 2002 and 2013. 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 2002 they covered 33 % of EU imports but only 26 % in 2013. During the same period China’s share increased from 11 % to 32 %.

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 of EU trade in 2009, the value of exports rose constantly from 2010 to 2013, while imports reached a peak in 2011 and then reduced in both 2012 and 2013. As a result, the EU trade balance in 2013 was positive for the first time since the beginning of the series (2002).

China is the biggest supplier to the EU in this product group, representing a share of 31% in 2013. 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 28 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.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

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

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links