Two way Trading in EU

In 2020, 67 % of EU enterprises engaged in international trade were only importers, while just under a quarter (23 %) were two-way traders (enterprises which both import and export goods); the remaining 10 % were only exporters. Despite the majority of EU enterprises being importers, two-way traders accounted for the vast majority of total trade in value terms (91 %).

This would tend to suggest that a high proportion of importers only and exporters only tend to trade with relatively few countries and/or relatively few (low value) transactions, whereas two-way traders were more inclined to have a larger number of transactions and a wider range of trade partners.

This information comes from data published by Eurostat on October 21, 2022. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.


In terms of number of enterprises engaged in trade, the highest share of two-way traders at country level was recorded in Lithuania (41 %), while two-way traders accounted for around a third of all enterprises engaged in trade in Slovenia (34 %), Estonia and Latvia (both 33 %). In contrast, Cyprus (12 %), Belgium and Ireland (both 15 %) recorded the lowest proportions of two-way traders, as around four fifths of their enterprises engaged in trade were importers only. The highest share of exporters only was found in France (32 %).

In terms of total value of trade, a large majority (22) of the individual EU Member States reported that more than 80 % of their total trade was accounted for by two-way traders, with the highest shares recorded in Germany, Spain (both 95 %) and Belgium (94 %). At the other end of the scale, the relative importance of two-way traders was much lower in Cyprus (29 %) and Malta (48 %).

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