The EU’s position in world trade in figures


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The EU has always been about promoting trade: not only by removing barriers to trade between EU countries, but also by encouraging other countries to trade with the EU. In 2018, EU exports represented 15.2% of global exports and EU imports 15.1%, making it one of the world’s biggest trade players alongside the US and China.

Trade agreements

The EU currently has about 100 trade agreements in place or in the process of being updated or negotiated.

Trade agreements are not only an opportunity to reduce tariffs, but also to get our partners to recognise EU quality and safety standards, and to respect products with a protected designation of origin, such as champagne or Roquefort cheese. This is very important as European food products enjoy a worldwide reputation for excellence and tradition.

The EU also uses trade agreements to set standards for environment and labour, for example to avoid the importation of products produced using child labour.


The latest EU trade agreement signed was with Japan in 2018, which the Parliament adopted in December 2018, but many others are being negotiated.

EU imports and exports    

European firms not only benefit from economies of scale that being part of the world’s largest single market entail, but also from trade agreements that enable EU enterprises to export many of their services and goods. At the same time foreign firms wanting to export to the EU have to meet the same high standards as local firms so there is no risk of unfair competition by non-EU companies cutting corners.

In terms of exports of goods, the EU’s largest partners from January to August 2019 were the US (€259.9 billion), China (€145.3 billion) and Switzerland (€105.6 billion). During this period the EU imported most from China (€272.7 billion) followed by the US (€193.2 billion) and Russia (€105.0 billion).

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