EU imports and exports increased in 2021

In 2021, extra-EU trade saw a strong recovery from the drops in exports and imports registered in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, imports increased by 23 % and exports by 13 %.

Looking at the last decade, the export growth rate peaked in 2011 (+13 %) and remained positive until 2016 when it dropped (-0.5 %), being followed by a 7 % recovery in 2017. The export growth rate stayed positive in the next two years but decreased sharply in 2020 (-9 %) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The import growth rate also peaked in 2011 (+13 %), followed by small fluctuations between 2012 and 2015, before growing significantly in 2017 (+11 %) and 2018 (+8 %), and closing the decade with a sharp decrease (-12 %) in 2020.

In 2021, the EU trade in goods balance registered a surplus of EUR 68 billion, the lowest surplus since 2011, when the trade balance recorded a EUR 42 billion deficit. This development was driven, in particular, by a steep rise in the value of energy imports towards the end of 2021, with increasing trade deficits being recorded in November and December. After 2011, the trade balance recorded a continuous surplus, peaking at EUR 264 billion in 2016. The surplus decreased in 2017 (EUR 222 billion) and 2018 (EUR 148 billion), then increased again in 2019 (EUR 191 billion) and 2020 (EUR 216 billion).

This information comes from recently published data on international trade in goods. This article presents only a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

In 2021, the Netherlands was importing a large share of goods from third countries and exporting them within the EU. In contrast, Cyprus imported a large share of goods from the EU Member States, while the largest share was exported outside the EU.

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