A third of EU trade with the United States and China in 2016

A third of EU trade with the United States and China in 2016

In 2016, the United States (EUR 610 billion, or 17.7 % of total EU trade in goods) and China (EUR 515 billion, or 14.9 %) continued to be the two main goods trading partners of the European Union (EU), well ahead of Switzerland (EUR 264 billion, or 7.6 %), Russia (EUR 191 billion, or 5.5 %), Turkey (EUR 145 billion, or 4.2 %) and Japan (EUR 125 billion, or 3.6 %)

Trends observed over the past years are however very different for these top trading partners of the EU. After recording a significant and almost continuous fall until 2011, the share of the United States in EU total trade in goods has begun to increase again to reach 17.7 % in 2016. The share of China has almost tripled since 2000, rising from 5.5 % to 14.9 % in 2016. Since 2013 the share of Russia in total EU trade in goods has nearly halved to 5.5 % in 2016, as did the share of Japan since 2000 to 3.6 % in 2016. As for Switzerland and Turkey, their respective share remained relatively unchanged over the entire time period.

In 2016, machinery and transport equipment, other manufactured goods and chemicals represented the main categories of product traded by the EU.

These data are issued by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union.

Trade 1

Germany, main export destination for a majority of Member States

In almost all EU Member States, the main partner for exports of goods in 2016 was another member of the European Union, except for Germany, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom (the United States was the main destination of exports) as well as Lithuania (Russia).

In some Member States, over a quarter of exports went to one single partner. This partner was Germany for the Czech Republic (32 % of exports of goods), Austria (30 %), Hungary (28 %) and Poland (27 %). It was the United States for Malta (27 %) and Ireland (26 %), while for Portugal 26 % of exports of goods went to Spain. Overall, Germany was the main destination of goods exports for 16 Member States and among the top three in 22 Member States.

For extra-EU trade, that is trade with non-EU countries, the 3 main destinations of EU exports in 2016 were the United States (21 % of all extra-EU exports), China (10 %) and Switzerland (8 %).

Trade 2

Intra-EU exports prevail in all Member States apart from Malta, Cyprus and the United Kingdom

In 2016, the 28 EU Member States exported a total of EUR 4855 billion of goods, of which EUR 3110 billion (or 64 %) were destined for another Member State of the EU (intra-EU trade).

With about three-quarters or more of goods exported to other EU Member States, Slovakia (85 % intra-EU in total exports), the Czech Republic (84 %), Luxembourg (83 %), Hungary (81 %), Poland (80 %), the  Netherlands (76 %), Portugal, Romania and Slovenia (all 75 %) as well as Estonia (74 %) recorded in 2016 the highest shares of intra-EU exports. At the opposite end of the scale, Malta (39 %), Cyprus (46 %) and the United Kingdom (4 7%) were the only Member States that exported more goods to non-EU countries than within the EU in 2016.

Trade 3

Germany, also main source of imports for more than half of EU Member States

As for exports, the main partner for imports of goods in 2016 was another member of the European Union in all Member States except Lithuania, for which Russia was the main country of origin of goods imported.

In seven Member States, more than 25 % of imports of goods came from a single partner country in 2016: Austria (43 % of imports of goods originated from Germany), Portugal (33 % from Spain), the Czech Republic (31 % from Germany), Ireland (29 % from the United Kingdom), Luxembourg (29 % from Belgium), Poland (28 % from Germany) and Hungary (26 % from Germany). Overall, Germany was among the top three countries of origin of goods imported in all EU Member States except Ireland and Malta.

For extra-EU trade, the main country of origin of goods imported into the EU in 2016 remained China (20 % of all extra-EU imports), followed by the United States (14 %), Switzerland (7 %) and Russia (7 %).

Trade 4

Intra-EU imports prevail in almost all Member States

In 2016, the 28 EU Member States imported a total of EUR 4736 billion of goods, of which EUR 3029 billion (or 64 %) came from another EU Member State (intra-EU trade).

Over three-quarters of total imports of goods originated from another EU Member State in Estonia (82 %), Latvia (81 %), Slovakia (80 %), the Czech Republic (79 %), Hungary, Austria and Portugal (all 78 %), Croatia, Luxembourg and Romania (all 77 %). In contrast, the Netherlands (47 %) was the only Member State where less than half of the imports came from within the EU. This is largely due to the so-called ‘Rotterdam effect’ (see country note).

Trade 5

Machinery & transport equipment dominated both EU exports and imports

In 2016, machinery and transport equipment continued to play a major role in EU trade in goods with the rest of the world, accounting for 43 % of total extra-EU exports and 32 % of imports. Other manufactured goods (23 % of extra- EU exports and 26 % of extra-EU imports) as well as chemicals (18 % of extra-EU exports and 11 % of extra-EU imports) also played a significant role in EU trade in goods in 2016. Mineral fuels made up a minor share of extra- EU exports (4 %), but accounted for 15 % of all imports.

Trade 6


Country note: Dutch trade flows are over-estimated because of the so-called ‘Rotterdam effect’ (or quasi-transit trade): that is goods bound for other EU countries arrive in Dutch ports and, according to EU rules, are recorded as extra-EU imports by the Netherlands (the country where goods are released for free circulation). This in turn increases the intra-EU flows from the Netherlands to those Member States to which the goods are re-exported. To a lesser extent, Belgian figures are similarly overestimated.


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