March 2021: Euro Area international trade in goods surplus EUR 15.8 billion, EUR 18.8 billion surplus for EU

The first estimate for Euro  Area exports of goods to the rest of the world in March 2021 was EUR 212.1 billion, an increase of 8.9 % compared with March 2020 (EUR 194.7 billion), which had been affected by the COVID-19 containment measures widely introduced by the Member States. Imports from the rest of the world stood at EUR196.3 bn, a rise of 19.2 % compared with March 2020 (EUR 164.7 bn). As a result, the euro area recorded a EUR 15.8 bn surplus in trade in goods with the rest of the world in March 2021, compared with +EUR29.9 bn in March 2020. Intra-euro area trade rose to EUR 199.0 bn in March 2021, up by 27.5 % compared with March 2020.

In January to March 2021, euro area exports of goods to the rest of the world fell to EUR 564.0 bn (a decrease of 0.6 % compared with January-March 2020), and imports rose to EUR 514.4 bn (an increase of 0.3 % compared with January- March 2020). As a result the euro area recorded a surplus of EUR 49.5 bn, compared with +EUR 54.6 bn in January-March 2020. Intra-euro area trade rose to EUR 514.2 bn in January-March 2021, up by 6.2 % compared with January-March 2020.

European Union

The first estimate for extra-EU exports of goods in March 2021 was EUR 195.1 billion, up by 10.6 % compared with March 2020 (EUR 176.4 bn). Imports from the rest of the world stood at EUR 176.3 bn, up by 19.0 % compared with March 2020 (EUR 148.1 bn). As a result, the EU recorded a EUR 18.8 bn surplus in trade in goods with the rest of the world in March 2021, compared with +EUR 28.3 bn in March 2020. Intra-EU trade rose to EUR 303.7 bn in March 2021, +23.5 % compared with March 2020.

In January to March 2021, extra-EU exports of goods fell to EUR 508.7 bn (a decrease of 0.9 % compared with January-March 2020), and imports fell to EUR 460.7 bn (a decrease of 0.9 % compared with January-March 2020). As a result, the EU recorded a surplus of EUR 47.9 bn, compared with +EUR 48.5 bn in January-March 2020. Intra-EU trade rose to EUR 804.6 bn in January-March 2021, +6.0 % compared with January-March 2020

Annual comparison by Member State

In March 2021, compared with March 2020, all Member States registered an increase in extra-EU exports except Cyprus (-36.3 %), Ireland (-20.0 %), Lithuania (-6.3 %) and Romania (-3.2 %). The highest increases were registered in Greece (+54.0 %) and Slovakia (+49.8 %).

With regard to the extra-EU imports, the picture is similar. In March 2021 compared to March 2020, all Member States registered an increase in extra-EU imports except Cyprus (-36.5 %) and Malta (-11.9 %). The highest increases were observed in Croatia (+66.3 %), Bulgaria and Czechia (both +45.0 %).

Geographical information

The euro area (EA19) includes Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland.

The European Union includes Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden.

Methods and definitions

Since the introduction of Intrastat for intra-EU trade on 1 January 1993, the value of intra-EU exports has been consistently higher than that of intra-EU imports. In theory, as exports are declared FOB and imports CIF, the value of corresponding imports should be slightly higher than that of exports. Eurostat uses intra-EU exports as the more reliable measure of total intra-EU trade as, at aggregated levels, total intra-EU exports has better coverage than total intra-EU imports. Due to this divergence in intra-EU trade, and to the difficulties of interpreting figures in absolute terms at the level of individual Member States, trade balances for individual Member States must be interpreted with caution. The same caution applies to the trade balance of the euro area, which includes some intra-EU trade.

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. Although to a lesser extent, trade figures of other Member States like Belgium or Luxembourg may also be overestimated due to quasi-transit.

The United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU for the reference time period covered by this news release. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom for reference periods up to December 2020 were still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. The end of the transitory period thus had an impact on the trade flows between the United Kingdom and the EU Member States.

As of January 2021 onwards, data on trade with the United Kingdom is based on a mixed concept. In application of the Withdrawal Agreement Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, for trade with Northern Ireland the statistical concepts applicable are the same as those for trade between Member States while for trade with the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland) the same statistical concepts are applicable as for trade with any other extra-EU partner country.

For these reasons data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU trade partners, and for reference periods before and after the end of 2020.

National concepts may differ from the harmonised methodology used by Eurostat, leading to differences between figures in this release and those published nationally, both for raw data and for seasonally adjusted series.

Products are classified according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC), Revision 4.

Data collection for international trade in goods has in many countries been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The data in this release are, for several Member States, based on fewer statistical observations than usual. For missing data, imputation and estimation methods were applied. Information on the compilation of international trade in goods statistics during the COVID-19 crisis can be found here.

Annex – Seasonally adjusted data

In March 2021 compared with February 2021, Euro Area seasonally adjusted exports decreased by 0.3 %, while imports increased by 5.6 %. The seasonally adjusted balance was EUR +13.0 bn, a fall compared with February (EUR +23.1 bn).

In March 2021 compared with February 2021, EU seasonally adjusted exports increased by 2.2 %, while imports increased by 6.6 %. The seasonally adjusted balance was EUR +14.3 bn, a fall compared with February (EUR +20.5 bn).

Trade with the United Kingdom partially recovered

Exports to the United Kingdom continued to recover between February 2021 and March 2021 in seasonally adjusted terms (+12 %). However, compared to the last quarter of 2020, exports in the first quarter of 2021 were significantly lower (-18 %).

With respect to imports from the United Kingdom, the recovery was less pronounced than with respect to exports, with an increase of 9 % in March 2021. Compared to the last quarter of 2020, imports in the first quarter 2021 were considerably lower (-36 %).

www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat/