In 2021, the value of total trade (import plus exports) of raw materials between the EU and the rest of the world reached €178 billion. Since exports (€71.3 billion) were lower than imports (€106.8 billion), this resulted in a trade deficit of €35.5 billion.
Between 2002 and 2021, EU trade in raw materials almost tripled, equivalent to average annual growth of 5.6%. In this period, exports (6.5%) grew faster than imports (5.0%).
During the financial crisis of 2009, imports of raw materials decreased by €26.1 billion. Two-thirds of this drop (€17.9 billion) were due to a decrease in the imports of rubber, metal and minerals.
The most commonly exported raw materials were metals, minerals and rubber (39%), followed by wood, paper and textiles (33%), and animal and vegetable raw materials (28%).
In imports, metals, minerals and rubber (56%) were also the most traded raw materials, followed by animal and vegetable raw materials (30%), and by wood, paper and textiles (14%).
China and Brazil lead as main export and import partners
China was the main export destination of raw materials, accounting for 16% of all extra-EU exports in 2021, followed by the United Kingdom (15%), Turkey and the United States (both 10%). These top four export partners accounted for about half of all extra-EU exports.
In terms of extra-EU imports, Brazil (12%) and the United States (11%) were the main partners, followed by Ukraine and Russia (both 7%). The top four combined made up 37% of all extra-EU imports.