UK trade: November 2019

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

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Dyddiad y datganiad:
13 January 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
11 February 2020

1. Main points

  • The total trade surplus (goods and services) widened £0.6 billion to £1.1 billion in the three months to November 2019, largely driven by rising exports of unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold); excluding unspecified goods, the total trade deficit narrowed £1.0 billion to £1.1 billion.

  • Excluding unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), the trade in goods deficit widened £0.7 billion to £29.9 billion in the three months to November 2019, as imports grew faster than exports; the trade in services surplus widened £1.7 billion to £28.8 billion.

  • The trade in goods deficit with EU countries widened £1.8 billion to £23.9 billion in the three months to November 2019, while with non-EU countries it narrowed £0.6 billion to £3.8 billion.

  • Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade surplus in volume terms narrowed £0.3 billion to £1.6 billion in the three months to November 2019.

  • The total trade deficit widened £9.1 billion to £36.0 billion in the 12 months to November 2019, mainly because of the trade in goods deficit, which widened £7.4 billion to £143.9 billion.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

Data revision policy

Data within this release have been revised in accordance with National Accounts Revisions Policy. Services data in this release have been revised back to January 2018, while goods data have been revised back to October 2019, compared with trade figures published in our previous trade bulletin on 10 December 2019. Data in this release are consistent with estimates published in the Quarterly national accounts release published on 20 December 2019 for Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019.

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, as part of our engagement with the Office for Statistics Regulation team we are sharing our continuous improvement and development plans to support UK trade statistics regaining National Statistics status. We welcome feedback on our new trade statistics, developments and future plans. If you have any comments, please send them by email to trade@ons.gov.uk.

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.

UK trade data

Unless otherwise specified, data within this bulletin are in current prices, in other words, they have not been adjusted to remove the effects of inflation.

UK trade data within our monthly trade bulletin are published at around a six-week lag because of the timeliness of source data. For example, the June 2020 publication will include data up to the end of April 2020.

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 because of their volatility. The “erratics” series includes ships, aircraft, precious stones, silver and non-monetary gold. Non-monetary gold can have a particularly large impact because of 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.

Non-monetary gold

In line with international standards, the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’s) headline trade statistics contain the UK’s exports and imports of non-monetary gold. Non-monetary gold is the technical term for gold bullion not owned by central banks.

Because a significant amount of the world’s trade in non-monetary gold takes place on the London markets, this trade can have a large impact on the size of and change in the UK’s headline trade figures.

Non-monetary gold is one subcomponent of the commodity group “unspecified goods”.

More information about the ONS’s recording of non-monetary gold is available.

Precious metals

Precious metals includes non-monetary gold, silver, platinum and palladium, and forms part of unspecified goods. From 11 February 2020 onwards, we plan to introduce a further data series, which will present time series data for precious metals as well as total trade data excluding this commodity group. These data will be published alongside the monthly UK trade release.

For further information or any queries please contact trade@ons.gov.uk.

Trade asymmetries

These data are our best estimates of bilateral UK trade flows, compiled following internationally agreed standards and using a wide range of robust data sources. However, in some cases alternative estimates of bilateral trade flows are available from the statistical agencies for those countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade. Differences between estimates are known as trade asymmetries and are a known aspect of international trade statistics, affecting bilateral estimates across the globe, not just the UK.

We are heavily engaged in analysis of these asymmetries, developing strong bilateral relationships with other countries to understand, explain and potentially reduce them. We have published a series of analyses showing comparisons and the relative strengths of different estimates, which users may wish to reference to help them better understand the quality of our bilateral trade estimates.

The base year

Because of a very demanding set of changes in the 2019 national accounts annual update, we have not fully reconciled 2017 annual data, instead producing an indicative balance to allow further time for final quality assurance of the data. Consequently, the reference year and last base year for all chained volume measure (CVM) series remains as 2016.

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3. The total trade surplus widened £0.6 billion in the three months to November 2019

The total trade surplus (goods and services) widened £0.6 billion to £1.1 billion in the three months to November 2019 (Figure 2, Table 1). This was because of exports increasing £5.1 billion to £177.5 billion, while imports increased by a lesser £4.4 billion to £176.4 billion. The largest driver in the widening of the total trade surplus was exports of unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold) increasing by £1.1 billion to £4.1 billion in the three months to November 2019.

Excluding unspecified goods, the total trade deficit narrowed £1.0 billion to £1.1 billion in the three months to November 2019 (Figure 1). The narrowing of the total trade deficit (excluding unspecified goods) was because of a £1.7 billion widening of the trade in services surplus to £28.8 billion, partially offset by a £0.7 billion widening of the trade in goods deficit to £29.9 billion.

The widening of the trade in services surplus was driven by a £2.3 billion rise in services exports to £81.9 billion, which was partially offset by a £0.6 billion rise in services imports to £53.1 billion. Rising exports were seen across most service types in the three months to November 2019, with the largest increases seen in other business services and financial services.

The widening of the trade in goods deficit, excluding unspecified goods, in the three months to November 2019, was because of imports rising £2.3 billion to £121.4 billion, as exports rose by a lesser £1.6 billion to £91.5 billion. Rising goods imports were largely driven by chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, and food and live animals, which increased by £0.7 billion, £0.5 billion and £0.4 billion respectively (Figure 3).

November 2019 saw a monthly surplus of £4.0 billion, mainly driven by a £3.0 billion increase in exports of unspecified goods. Excluding unspecified goods, November 2019 saw a monthly trade surplus of £0.7 billion, largely because of falling imports in machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, of £1.6 billion and £1.3 billion respectively.

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4. The trade in goods deficit widened with EU countries and narrowed with non-EU countries in the three months to November 2019

The trade in goods deficit with EU countries widened £1.8 billion to £23.9 billion, while with non-EU countries the deficit narrowed £0.6 billion to £3.8 billion, in the three months to November 2019 (Figure 4).

The widening of the deficit with EU countries was largely because of goods imports, which rose £2.6 billion to £66.5 billion, and was partially offset by a £0.8 billion increase in goods exports to £42.6 billion.

Rising goods imports from EU countries were largely driven by machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, which increased by £1.5 billion and £0.6 billion respectively. These increases were partially offset by fuel imports, which fell by £0.4 billion.

Increases in imports of machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, from EU countries were seen in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019, followed by falls in November. This trend is consistent with an increase in activity ahead of the UK’s intended departure date from the European Union on 31 October 2019, and is similar to that which was seen ahead of the original intended departure date on 29 March 2019, but we are unable to quantify the effect of this.

Rising goods exports to EU countries were largely driven by fuels, and food and live animals, which both increased by £0.2 billion.

The narrowing of the deficit with non-EU countries was largely because of goods exports, which rose £1.9 billion to £52.9 billion, and was partially offset by a £1.3 billion increase in goods imports to £56.7 billion.

Rising goods exports to non-EU countries were largely driven by unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased by £1.2 billion, £0.7 billion and £0.5 billion respectively.

Rising goods imports from non-EU countries were largely driven by unspecified goods and fuels, which increased by £1.4 billion and £0.8 billion respectively. These increases were partially offset by falling imports of machinery and transport equipment by £1.1 billion.

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5. Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade surplus narrowed in the three months to November 2019

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

In volume terms, the total trade surplus (goods and services) narrowed £0.3 billion to £1.6 billion in the three months to November 2019. The trade in goods deficit widened £1.5 billion to £25.0 billion and the trade in services surplus widened £1.2 billion to £26.7 billion (Figure 5).

Goods imports increased £4.1 billion to £110.2 billion in the three months to November 2019; goods exports increased by a lesser £2.6 billion to £85.1 billion. The rise in goods imports was largely because of increases in unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), chemicals, and machinery and transport equipment of £1.5 billion, £0.9 billion and £0.7 billion respectively. The rise in goods exports was mainly because of increases in unspecified goods, machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures of £0.9 billion, £0.6 billion and £0.5 billion respectively.

Services exports increased £1.8 billion to £76.6 billion, while services imports increased £0.6 billion to £49.9 billion. Excluding unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), the total trade deficit in volume terms narrowed £0.3 billion to £0.2 billion. The trade in goods deficit in volume terms, excluding unspecified goods, widened £0.9 billion to £26.9 billion.

Total trade import prices fell 0.5% in the three months to November 2019. This was mainly because of a 0.7% fall in goods import prices, while services import prices fell 0.2%. The fall in goods import prices was largely driven by animal and vegetable oils and fats, chemicals, and crude materials, which fell by 2.8%, 2.1% and 1.5% respectively.

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

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.

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Notes:

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 official statistics and no longer experimental.

These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, through the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

Interactive maps denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB).

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?

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.

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Notes:

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.

These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, via the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

Interactive maps denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB).

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7. The total trade deficit widened in the 12 months to November 2019

The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £9.1 billion to £36.0 billion in the 12 months to November 2019, mainly because of a widening of the trade in goods deficit of £7.4 billion to £143.9 billion (Figure 6, Table 2).

Imports of goods increased £19.0 billion to £505.3 billion, while exports increased by a lesser £11.6 billion to £361.4 billion.

Rising imports of goods in the 12 months to November 2019 were largely because of unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased by £11.8 billion, £6.3 billion and £4.2 billion respectively. This was partially offset by a fall of £6.1 billion in fuel imports.

The £11.6 billion increase of goods exports to £361.4 billion was driven by miscellaneous manufactures, unspecified goods, and machinery and transport equipment, which increased by £7.7 billion, £4.6 billion and £2.5 billion respectively. This was partially offset by a fall of £3.0 billion in fuel exports.

The trade in services surplus narrowed £1.7 billion to £107.9 billion in the 12 months to November 2019, as imports increased by £15.5 billion to £210.2 billion and exports increased by a lesser £13.8 billion to £318.1 billion.

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8. The trade in goods deficit widened for both non-EU and EU countries in the 12 months to November 2019

The £7.4 billion widening of the trade in goods deficit to £143.9 billion in the 12 months to November 2019 was because of trade with both EU and non-EU countries (Figure 7). The trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries widened £3.8 billion to £47.6 billion, while the trade in goods deficit with EU countries widened £3.6 billion to £96.3 billion, in the 12 months to November 2019.

The widening of the trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries in the 12 months to November 2019 was mainly because of imports, which increased £17.1 billion to £238.5 billion, while exports increased by a lesser £13.3 billion to £190.9 billion.

The largest contributors to the increase in imports from non-EU countries were unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased by £12.0 billion, £3.7 billion and £2.4 billion respectively.

The increase in non-EU exports was largely driven by miscellaneous manufactures, unspecified goods, chemicals, and material manufactures, which rose by £6.4 billion, £4.4 billion, £1.5 billion and £1.4 billion respectively.

The £3.6 billion widening of the trade in goods deficit with EU countries in the 12 months to November 2019 was jointly because of an increase in imports of £1.9 billion to £266.7 billion and also a fall in exports of £1.7 billion to £170.4 billion.

The increase in imports from EU countries was largely because of machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased by £2.7 billion and £1.7 billion respectively, partially offset by a £3.1 billion fall in imports of fuels.

The fall in EU exports was driven by chemicals and material manufactures, which fell by £3.2 billion and £1.2 billion respectively. This was partially offset by machinery and transport equipment, which increased by £1.4 billion.

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9. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revision Policy, trade in services data in this release have been revised from January 2018 and trade in goods data have been revised from October 2019 (Figure 8).

The total trade deficit for October 2019 was revised upwards (narrowing of the deficit) by £3.9 billion to £1.3 billion, largely because of a £3.5 billion upward revision of the trade in goods deficit to £10.9 billion. Goods imports were revised down by £3.3 billion to £42.8 billion, largely driven by a £2.9 billion downward revision in imports of unspecified goods.

The trade in services surplus was revised upwards by £1.6 billion for January to October 2019 and downwards by £0.5 billion for 2018.

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10. Data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Released 13 January 2020
Monthly data on the UK's trade in goods and services, including trade inside and outside the EU.

UK trade time series
Dataset MRET | Released 13 January 2020
Monthly value of UK exports and imports of goods and services by current price, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

Other related trade data
Released 13 January 2020
Other UK trade data related to this publication. This includes trade in goods for all countries with the UK, monthly export and import country-by-commodity trade in goods data, and revisions triangles for monthly trade data.

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12. 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 (CP 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:

Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments, The Pink Book 2019.

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

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the UK trade QMI.

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