These are the UK’s biggest trading partners

Boris.jpg

Boris Johnson, UK’s Prime Minister (Credit: European Union)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Last year, nearly half the UK’s exports went to EU countries.
  • The top five export destinations in 2017 were the US, Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland,
  • China was the sixth most-important export market for the UK in 2017. Japan ranked 16th.

Almost half the UK’s exports went to European Union member states in 2018 – 45%, to be exact, totalling some $372.5 billion. Taken as a whole, the EU dominates the UK’s global trading partnerships, accounting for substantially more than the next-biggest single country the UK trades with.

This may give some indication of where a post-Brexit UK will look to replace any lost EU trade.

The World Bank breaks down UK trade with more than 200 countries, from $719,000 worth of exports to Anguilla in the Eastern Caribbean, to many billions of dollars exchanged with economic powerhouses like the US, Germany and China. (The most recent data available is from 2017.)

You can view a full, interactive version of this graphic here.

The UK’s global trading partners
In 2017, the United States was Britain’s biggest export destination, receiving 13.4% of total products.
Image: World Bank

The UK’s top five export destinations in 2017 were the US, Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland, says the World Bank.

1. United States

The United States was the UK’s #1 export destination, receiving 13.39% of the UK’s exports with a total value of $59.18 billion. The two countries maintain a special relationship, as Winston Churchill once described it, though there’s no indication yet of what kind of trade deal the two will sign after Brexit.

2. Germany

Germany may have experienced a slowdown this year, but it remains the fourth-largest global economy and the largest economy in Europe. The UK sent 10.56% of its total exports to Germany in 2017, valued at $46.69 billion.

3. France

France is experiencing an increase in industrial output and job creation, which may be the result of labour market reforms instigated by President Emmanuel Macron. It receives 6.88% of UK exports, totalling $30.4 billion.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – driven by rapid technological change and digitalization – has already had a profound impact on global trade, economic growth and social progress. Cross-border e-commerce has generated trillions of dollars in economic activity continues to accelerate and the ability of data to move across borders underpins new business models, boosting global GDP by 10% in the last decade alone.

The application of emerging technologies in trade looks to increase efficiency and inclusivity in global trade by enabling more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to repeat its benefits and by closing the economic gap between developed and developing countries.

However, digital trade barriers including outdated regulations and fragmented governance of emerging technologies could potentially hamper these gains. We are leading the charge to apply 4IR technologies to make international trade more inclusive and efficient, ranging from enabling e-commerce and digital payments to designing norms and trade policies around emerging technologies (‘TradeTech’).

4. The Netherlands

The Netherlands takes 6.24% of UK exports, or around $27.57 billion. According to the UK government, much of those exports are mineral fuels, oils and distillation products, pharmaceuticals, nuclear reactors and boilers.

5. Ireland

The Republic of Ireland, the UK’s closest neighbour – and the only EU member state with which it shares a land border – ranks fifth. The UK sends 5.68% of its exports to Ireland, valued at $25.1 billion.

China is only the sixth most-important export market (4.84%) for the UK, based on 2017 data. Japan is 16th (1.67%), India is 23rd (1.19%) and Australia is 21st (1.3%).

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