UK trade: December 2018

Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

Cyswllt:
Email James Wells

Dyddiad y datganiad:
11 February 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
12 March 2019

1. Main points

  • The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £0.9 billion to £10.4 billion in the three months to December 2018, due mainly to a £1.5 billion rise in goods imports.

  • Rising imports of cars, material manufactures and chemicals were the main contributors to the rise in goods imports in the three months to December 2018; this was offset in part by falling imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) and fuels.

  • The trade in goods deficit widened £1.6 billion with EU countries and narrowed £0.2 billion with non-EU countries in the three months to December 2018.

  • Excluding erratic commodities, the total trade deficit widened £3.8 billion to £12.9 billion in the three months to December 2018.

  • Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit widened £0.6 billion to £7.1 billion in the three months to December 2018.

  • The total trade deficit widened £8.4 billion to £32.3 billion between 2017 and 2018, due mainly to a £7.2 billion increase in services imports.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

2. Things you need to know about this release

Data revision policy

Data within this release have been revised in accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy. Data in this release have been revised back to January 2018, compared with trade figures published in our previous trade bulletin on 11 January 2019. Data in this release are consistent with estimates published in the GDP first quarterly estimate also published on 11 February 2019 for Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018.

National Statistics designation status

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade (PDF 72.8KB) on 14 November 2014. We have now responded to all of the specific requirements of the reassessment of UK trade and are in the final stages of providing evidence to the Authority. We are undertaking a programme of improvements to UK trade statistics in line with the UK trade development plan, including more detail and improvements now published to address anticipated future demands. On 24 October 2018 we published an article outlining our achievements so far and forward look with regards to the transformation of our trade statistics. We continue to work with the Office for Statistics Regulation team to regain National Statistics status for UK trade statistics. We welcome feedback on our new trade statistics, developments and future plans. If you have any comments, please email trade@ons.gov.uk.

Trade figures

Unless otherwise specified, data within this bulletin are in current prices.

Erratic commodities

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, we recommend comparing the latest three months against the preceding three months, and the same three months of the previous year.

Oil and other “erratic” commodities can make a large contribution to trade in goods, but often mask the underlying trend in the export or import values due to their volatility. The “erratics” series includes ships, aircraft, precious stones, silver and non-monetary gold. Non-monetary gold can have a particularly large impact on growth rates, due to the large volumes of gold traded on the London markets. Therefore, we also publish data exclusive of these commodities, which may provide a better guide to the emerging trade picture.

Naming conventions in MRETS time series

In the next release on the 12 March 2019, we are planning to make changes to the naming conventions in our UK trade time series dataset. Changes relate to the titles of the series; CDID codes will remain unchanged. For example, “Balance of Payments: Trade in Goods & Services: Total balance: CP SA £m” will be renamed to “Total Trade (TT): WW: Balance: BOP: CP: SA”. Data series have been renamed so that naming conventions are consistent throughout the dataset. Data will not be affected by the changes to naming conventions. If you have any comments, please email trade@ons.gov.uk.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

3. The total trade deficit widened in the three months to December 2018

Figure 1 shows the change to goods, services and total trade balances along with exports and imports in the three months to December 2018 compared with the three months to September 2018.

The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £0.9 billion to £10.4 billion in the three months to December 2018, due mainly to an increase in imports. Total trade imports increased £1.8 billion to £169.3 billion, while total trade exports increased by a lesser £1.0 billion to £159.0 billion.

The increase in total imports in the three months to December 2018 was driven mainly by a £1.5 billion increase (to £125.6 billion) in goods imports, whereas goods exports remained broadly flat, increasing by £0.05 billion, resulting in a £1.4 billion widening (to £36.7 billion) of the trade in goods deficit.

A widening of the trade in services surplus partially offset the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to December 2018. The trade in services surplus widened £0.6 billion in the three months to December 2018 as exports of services increased £0.9 billion to £70.1 billion; while imports increased by a lesser £0.3 billion to £43.8 billion.

Figure 2 shows the UK trade balances on a three-month on three-month basis between December 2016 and December 2018.

A rise in imports of machinery and transport equipment was the main contributor to the widening of the trade in goods deficit in the three months to December 2018. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased £1.5 billion in the three months to December 2018; £1.2 billion of which was due to rising car imports. Material manufactures and chemical imports also contributed to the increase in imports, both with an increase of £0.7 billion.

Decreases in imports of unspecified goods and fuels offset some of the increase in imports of machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and material manufactures in the three months to December 2018. Imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) fell £1.1 billion, while imports of fuels decreased £0.8 billion.

Goods exports remained broadly flat, increasing by £0.05 billion in the three months to December 2018. Exports of machinery and transport fell £0.6 billion, due mainly to a £1.1 billion fall in car exports, while exports of fuels fell £1.1 billion. These large falls in exports were offset mainly by increases in exports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) and chemicals, which increased £1.0 billion and £0.3 billion, respectively.

Excluding erratic commodities, the total trade deficit widened £3.8 billion to £12.9 billion in the three months to December 2018.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

4. The trade in goods deficit widened with EU countries and narrowed with non-EU countries in the three months to December 2018

Figure 3 shows the change in goods exports, imports and trade balances with EU and non-EU countries between the three months to September 2018 and the three months to December 2018.

The trade in goods deficit widened £1.6 billion with EU countries and narrowed £0.2 billion with non-EU countries in the three months to December 2018. An increase in car imports was the largest contributor to the widening of the deficit with EU countries.

Imports from EU countries increased £1.7 billion, while exports increased £0.04 billion in the three months to December 2018. The rise in imports was due mainly to a £1.5 billion increase in imports of machinery and transport equipment, of which £1.0 billion was cars.

Imports from non-EU countries fell £0.2 billion, whereas exports remained broadly flat in the three months to December 2018. The main contributors to the fall in imports to non-EU countries were: a £1.0 billion fall in imports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) and a £0.7 billion fall in imports of fuels. These were partially offset by increases in imports of chemicals and material manufactures, which rose £0.5 billion and £0.4 billion, respectively.

As in previous months, trade in cars has had a large impact on the trade balance. Car imports increased, while exports decreased to and from both EU and non-EU countries in the three months to December 2018. The £1.2 billion increase in car imports was due mainly to a £1.0 billion increase in imports from EU countries. Falling exports of cars to non-EU countries contributed £1.0 billion to the £1.1 billion fall in total car exports.

On a monthly basis, exports of cars fell from February 2018 to May 2018, before broadly increasing between May and September 2018; increasing £0.4 million on the month to September 2018. The increase in exports in September 2018 was due primarily to non-EU countries, which made up £0.6 billion of the increase on the month, offset in part by a £0.2 billion fall in exports to EU countries.

Part of the fall in exports of cars in the three months to December 2018 is due to the high value in September 2018 falling out of the three-month estimate. However, exports of cars have also fallen between October and December 2018.

Car imports from the EU fell sharply on a monthly basis from April 2018 to August 2018. As these lower months fall out of the three-month estimate we see a large increase in the three months to December 2018.

Our recent article outlines, using our new datasets, the recent trends in the 12 months to November 2018 in exports and imports of motor vehicles. Exploring which countries drove the increase in car exports to non-EU countries and the fall in imports of cars from EU countries in the 12 months to November 2018.

The UK trade in fuels surplus with the EU countries narrowed and the deficit with the non-EU countries narrowed in the three months to December 2018, largely as a result of falling oil prices. Falling oil prices will result in UK exporters receiving a lower price for their exports, meaning a fall in the value of exports. Conversely, UK importers of oil will be faced with cheaper imports, resulting in a fall in the value of imports. The UK is a net exporter of fuels to the EU and a net importer of fuels from non-EU countries, so any fall in oil prices is likely to result in an increase in the balance with non-EU countries while decreasing the balance with EU countries, assuming no change in the volume of oil exports and imports.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

5. Removing the effect of inflation, the trade deficit widened in the three months to December 2018

This section presents volume and price estimates of the UK trade balances, exports and imports, using chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs). A CVM is a measure that has had the effect of inflation removed. An IDEF shows the implied change in average prices for the respective components of the trade balance.

Figure 4 shows the UK trade balances on a CVM basis, three-month on three-month from December 2017 to December 2018.

In CVM terms, the total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £0.6 billion to £7.1 billion in the three months to December 2018; this was due to a £2.6 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit, which was partially offset by a £2.0 billion widening in the services surplus.

Goods exports fell £0.7 billion, while goods imports rose £1.9 billion in the three months to December 2018; services exports increased £2.1 billion, while imports increased £0.05 billion.

The largest contributors to the fall in goods export volumes in the three months to December 2018 were machinery and transport equipment, and fuels, which fell £1.5 billion and £0.4 billion respectively. Exports of unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold) increased £0.9 billion, partially offsetting the decreases in machinery and transport, and fuels exports. The largest contributors to the increase in goods import volumes were machinery and transport equipment, and material manufactures, which increased £1.4 billion and £0.7 billion respectively.

Figure 5 shows CVMs and IDEFs for goods exports on a three-month on three-month basis between December 2016 and December 2018.

Exports of goods increased £0.05 billion in current prices, while volumes fell £0.7 billion as prices increased by 1.0% in the three months to December 2018. The divergence between volume and current price estimates for goods exports was due mainly to increases in the export prices of both material manufactures and chemicals, which more than offset large falls in the IDEF for fuels.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

6. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2018 via our interactive tools

This release provides the first estimate of UK trade for 2018, and you can explore the 2018 trade in goods data using our interactive tools. Our data breaks down UK trade in goods with 234 countries by 125 commodities.

Use our map to get a better understanding of what goods the UK traded with a particular country. Select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu.

Embed code

For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

What about trade in a particular commodity in 2018? What percentage of UK car exports went to the EU? Where did UK imports of tea and coffee come from last year?

Use our interactive tools to understand UK trade of a particular commodity in 2018.

Select a commodity from the drop-down menu, or click through the levels to explore the data.

Embed code

Embed code

For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

7. The total trade deficit widened in 2018

Figure 6 shows the changes to goods, services and total trade balance along with exports and imports in 2018, compared with 2017.

The total UK trade deficit (goods and services) widened £8.4 billion to £32.3 billion in 2018. The widening of the trade deficit was due mainly to a £6.6 billion narrowing in the trade in services surplus; the goods deficit widened by a lesser £1.8 billion.

The narrowing of the services surplus was due to a £7.2 billion increase in services imports in 2018; exports of services increased £0.6 billion. The largest contributors to the increase in services imports were transport, travel and other business services.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

8. The UK trade in goods deficit widened with both EU and non-EU countries in 2018

Figure 7 shows the changes in UK goods exports, imports and trade balances with EU and non-EU countries in 2018 compared with 2017.

The £1.8 billion widening in the trade in goods deficit in 2018 was due mainly to trade with non-EU countries. The UK trade in goods deficit widened £1.6 billion with non-EU countries and £0.2 billion with EU countries in 2018.

Exports to EU countries increased £6.7 billion in 2018, but were offset by a £6.9 billion increase in imports. Imports from non-EU countries increased £6.1 billion in 2018, while exports increased by a lesser £4.5 billion.

The largest contributor to the increase in imports from non-EU countries was an £8.1 billion increase in imports of fuels; partially offset by falls in imports of machinery and transport equipment (mainly aircraft) and miscellaneous manufactures. The increase in exports to non-EU countries were driven by increases of £1.2 billion and £1.8 billion in machinery and transport equipment, and fuels, respectively.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

10. Quality and methodology

Trade is measured through both exports and imports of goods and services. Data are supplied by over 30 sources including several administrative sources, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) being the largest for trade in goods.

This monthly release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs). Figures are analysed by broad commodity group (CP, CVMs and IDEFs) and according to geographical area (values only). In addition, the UK trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.

Further qualitative data and information can be found in the attached datasets. This includes data on:

  • response rates

  • revision triangles

Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments, The Pink Book 2018.

The UK trade methodology web pages have been developed to provide detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics.

The UK trade Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

James Wells
trade@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455582