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Geographical pattern of UK trade

Published Thursday, January 18, 2018

This note looks at the UK's trade with its main trading partners.

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This note looks at the UK’s main trading partners over the last 10-15 years.

The EU as a bloc is the UK’s largest trading partner. In 2016, it accounted for 43% of UK exports of goods and services and 54% of the UK’s imports. The EU’s share of UK exports has been falling in recent years: in 1999, the EU’s share was nearly 55%.

Looking at individual countries, the US is the UK’s largest trading partner. The UK exported £100 billion of goods and services to the US in 2016, 18% of the total. This was slightly more than twice as much as exports to Germany, the second largest export market (£49 billion). 10 of the UK’s top 25 export markets in 2016 were EU member states, as were 13 of the top 25 countries from which the UK imports.

Trade with China has expanded rapidly in recent years. China now accounts for over 7% of UK imports compared with 1.5% in 1999. It is the fourth largest source of UK imports. The UK exported nearly £17 billion to China in 2016 making it the eighth largest export market for the UK. Trade with India has also increased. India’s share of UK imports has increased from 0.9% to 1.6% since 1999.

The Commonwealth accounts for around 10% of UK trade. This proportion has remained reasonably stable over the last decade. The UK’s largest trading partners among the Commonwealth countries are India, Australia, Canada, Singapore and South Africa.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7593

Authors: Matthew Ward; Dominic Webb

Topic: International trade

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