First quarter of 2021: EU current account surplus EUR 116.5 billion, EUR 33.1 billion surplus for trade in services

In the first quarter of 2021, the EU seasonally adjusted current account of the balance of payments recorded a surplus of EUR 116.5 billion (3.4 % of GDP), down from a surplus of EUR 127.3 billion (3.7 % of GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2020 and up from a surplus of EUR 69.8 billion (2.0 % of GDP) in the first quarter of 2020, according to estimates released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

In the first quarter of 2021 compared with the fourth quarter of 2020, based on seasonally adjusted data, the surplus of the goods account decreased (+EUR 99.2 bn compared to +EUR 108.7 bn), as did the surplus of the services account (+EUR 33.1 bn compared to +EUR 39.9 bn). The deficit of the primary income account moved to a surplus (+EUR 4.7 bn compared to -EUR 6.9 bn), while the deficit of the secondary income account increased (-EUR 20.5 bn compared to -EUR 14.4 bn). The deficit of the capital account decreased (-EUR 3.8 bn compared to -EUR 10.5 bn).

Main partners

In the first quarter of 2021, based on non-seasonally adjusted data, the EU recorded external current account surpluses with the United Kingdom (+EUR 53.3 bn), the USA (+EUR 29.4 bn), Switzerland (+EUR 21.7 bn), Brazil (+EUR 5.9 bn), Hong Kong (+EUR 5.1 bn), Canada (+EUR 4.7 bn) and India (+EUR 1.7 bn). Deficits were registered with China (-EUR 26.7 bn), Russia (-EUR 4.3 bn), Japan (-EUR 3.4 bn) and the offshore financial centres (-EUR 3.3 bn).

Financial account

Based on non-seasonally adjusted data, direct investment assets of the EU increased in the first quarter of 2021 by EUR 66.2 bn, while direct investment liabilities increased by EUR 12.7 bn. As a result, the EU was a net direct investor to the rest of the world in the first quarter of 2021 by EUR 53.5 bn. Portfolio investment recorded a net outflow of EUR 113.9 bn and for other investment there was a net outflow of EUR 17.0 bn.

Current account of Member States (including intra-EU flows)

As concerns the total (intra-EU plus extra-EU) current account balances of the EU Member States, for which non- seasonally adjusted data are available, thirteen Member States recorded surpluses, eleven deficits and two were in balance in the first quarter of 2021. The highest surpluses were observed in Germany (+EUR 66.5 bn), the Netherlands (+EUR 22.6 bn), Sweden (+EUR 7.7 bn) and Italy (+EUR 7.1 bn). The largest deficits were recorded for France (-EUR 11.0 bn), Romania (-EUR 3.0 bn), Greece (-EUR 2.7 bn) and Spain (-EUR 2.1 bn).

Geographical information

The European Union (EU27) 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.

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.

Offshore Financial Centres (OFC) is an aggregate that includes 40 countries. As example, the aggregate contains financial centres such as Liechtenstein, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Andorra, Gibraltar, Panama, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.

Methods and definitions

The current account covers all transactions occurring between resident and non-resident entities, and refers to international trade in goods and services, as well as primary and secondary income. The capital account comprises capital transfers and the acquisition and disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets. The financial account records transactions that involve financial assets and liabilities, and take place between residents and non-residents and is further subdivided into direct investment, portfolio investment, other investment, financial derivatives and employee stock options and reserve assets. Further details of the statistical concepts and definitions used can be found on the Eurostat website here.

In line with the agreed allocation of responsibility, the European Central Bank (ECB) is in charge of compiling and disseminating monthly and quarterly balance of payments and quarterly international investment position statistics for the euro area, while the European Commission (Eurostat) is responsible for monthly, quarterly and annual aggregates of the EU. The aggregates for the euro area and the EU are compiled consistently on the basis of Member States’ transactions with residents of countries outside the euro area and the European Union respectively.