In 2021, the EU trade in goods balance registered a surplus of €68 billion, the lowest surplus since 2011

EU imports and exports increased in 2021

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The FINANCIAL — 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 €68 billion, the lowest surplus since 2011, when the trade balance recorded a €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 €264 billion in 2016. The surplus decreased in 2017 (€222 billion) and 2018 (€148 billion), then increased again in 2019 (€191 billion) and 2020 (€216 billion).

Timeline:EU international trade in goods, 2011-2021 (% year-to-year growth rate; billion euros)

Source dataset: ext_st_eu27_2020sitc

European single market is the preference

Data show that the EU’s internal market takes centre stage in the Member States’ trade of goods, although the proportion of intra-EU and extra-EU flows in total trade in goods varied considerably across the EU Member States, reflecting, to some degree, historical ties and geographical location. 
Among the EU Member States, the highest shares of intra-EU trade in 2021 for both imports and exports were recorded in Luxembourg (89% and 81%, respectively). In contrast, Ireland was the EU Member State with the lowest shares of intra-EU trade for both imports and exports (38% for both), which is not surprising as its first trade partner is the United Kingdom. 
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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Scatterplot:trade in goods in the EU and outside the EU (% based on trade value, 2021)

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