UK trade: November 2021

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 Hannah Donnarumma

Dyddiad y datganiad:
14 January 2022

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
11 February 2022

1. Main points

  • Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £2.0 billion (4.9%) in November 2021, because of a £0.8 billion (4.5%) increase in EU imports and a £1.1 billion (5.2%) rise in imports from non-EU countries.

  • Imports from non-EU countries continue to be higher than from EU countries for the 11th consecutive month, and the gap is at its widest point of the year.

  • Imports of fuels continue to be the main driver of the import gap between EU and non-EU countries in recent months, despite small decreases compared with October 2021 levels.

  • Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, decreased by £0.3 billion (1.0%) in November 2021, driven entirely by a £0.3 billion (2.1%) fall in exports to non-EU countries while exports to EU countries remained flat.

  • The trade in services surplus increased by £2.1 billion to £35.9 billion in the three months to November 2021.

  • The total trade in goods and services deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £2.8 billion to £9.3 billion in the three months to November 2021.

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Please note that all trade figures are excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals unless otherwise stated. This is because movements in non-monetary gold (NMG), an important component of precious metals, can be large and highly volatile, distorting underlying trends in goods exports and imports.

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3. Monthly trade analysis

Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, rose by £2.0 billion (4.9%) in November 2021, with imports from the EU increasing by £0.8 billion (4.5%) and imports from non-EU countries increasing by £1.1 billion (5.2%). Increasing imports from EU countries were driven by increases in imports of chemicals, and machinery and transport equipment. Increases in imports from non-EU countries were driven by increases in imports of miscellaneous manufactures, machinery and transport equipment, material manufactures and chemicals (Figure 2).

Imports of chemicals increased from a number of EU countries including Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Organic chemical imports from Ireland peaked in July 2021, then again in November 2021. Some organic chemicals such as antibiotics are used for vaccine production, so these upticks could be connected to increased vaccine production as part of the vaccine programme rollout, as it ties in with the various waves of the NHS vaccine programme. The increase in EU imports of machinery and transport equipment was driven by imports from Germany and the Netherlands.

Increased imports from non-EU countries were driven by miscellaneous manufactures, and machinery and transport equipment from China. The decreased fuel imports were driven by falls in imports from Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Norway.

Imports of fuels from both EU and non-EU countries fell in November 2021 but remain at historically high levels. Falling imports of fuels from non-EU countries can be attributed to seasonal adjustment effects.

With full customs controls on imports starting on 1 January 2022, we have investigated whether there is early evidence of stockpiling in the latest data, similar to stockpiling of some commodities seen at the end of 2020. We have not found any strong evidence of stockpiling, and patterns of UK trade in this bulletin reflect usual, seasonal patterns of imports. We will continue to monitor these trends in the coming months.

Figure 2: Imports of goods increased in November 2021, driven by increasing imports of chemicals, and machinery and transport equipment

EU and non-EU goods imports by commodity November 2019 to November 2021

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Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, fell by £0.3 billion (1.0%) in November 2021. This was entirely driven by a £0.3 billion (2.1%) fall in exports to non-EU countries while exports to the EU remained at similar levels to October 2021. Exports to EU and non-EU countries are now closely balanced, with exports to the EU being greater by £0.1 billion.

Exports to the EU remained flat in November 2021, with small increases across several commodities being entirely offset by decreasing fuel exports to the Netherlands (Figure 3). Falling exports to non-EU countries were driven by a decrease in chemical exports, particularly organic chemicals to the United States. This decrease in exports to non-EU countries was partially offset by a small increase in exports of material manufactures.

Figure 3: Exports of goods decreased in November 2021, driven by decreasing exports of chemicals to non-EU countries

EU and non-EU goods exports by commodity November 2019 to November 2021

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4. Total trade, three-monthly and annual movements

The total trade balance, excluding precious metals, decreased by £2.8 billion in the three months to November 2021. The total trade deficit is now £9.3 billion in the last three months. Total imports, excluding precious metals, increased by £5.2 billion to £165.7 billion while total exports, excluding precious metals, increased by £2.4 billion to £156.4 billion (Figure 4).

The primary driver for the decline in the total trade balance was the trade in goods balance, which decreased by £4.9 billion in the three months to November 2021. The trade in services surplus offset the trade in goods deficit, but not completely. Early estimates suggest the trade in services surplus increased by £2.1 billion in the three months to November 2021, increasing to £35.9 billion.

The total trade deficit, including precious metals, narrowed to £4.0 billion in the three months to November 2021. Total imports increased by £3.1 billion to £166.2 billion while total exports grew by £8.2 billion to £162.2 billion. This increase in exports is partly driven by increasing exports of precious metals, possibly because of firms anticipating the implementation of Basel standards by the Prudential Regulation Authority, which came into effect on 1 January 2022.

Imports of goods in November 2021 were £1.9 billion (4.6%) higher than November 2020 levels. Exports in November 2021 remained at the same levels to November 2020 (Table 2). As 2020 data were strongly impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we also compared them against 2018 trade data. When compared with November 2018, imports increased by £0.4 billion (1.0%) while exports decreased by £2.2 billion (7.4%).

Imports and exports of goods increased in the three months to November 2021 compared with the three months to November 2020. However, imports and exports both decreased when compared with the same period in 2018.

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5. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2020

Explore the 2020 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 country. Select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu.

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Notes:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. This interactive map denotes country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and does not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

You can also explore the 2020 trade in goods data by commodity, for example, car exports to the EU and UK tea or coffee imports.

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

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Notes:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. These interactive charts denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and does not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

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6. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, the data in this release have been revised from January 2020 to October 2021 for both goods and services.

HM Revenue and Customs unscheduled correction

Following the publication of UK trade: April 2021, an error was identified in the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Overseas Trade data used to compile the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) UK Trade statistics.

Revisions for the period January 2020 to February 2021 were published in our UK trade: May 2021 bulletin on 9 July 2021, taking place outside of the usual National Accounts revisions period in order to ensure the ONS Trade figures reflected the most up-to-date position. Revisions for pre-2020 will be incorporated in the annual Blue Book publication in October 2022.

We have published an article providing users with an indicative estimate of the likely scale and impact of these corrections on the ONS trade statistics before their publication in the August 2022 UK trade statistics, due to be published in October 2022.

The Office for National Statistics' processing error

Following the publication of UK trade: September 2021 an error was identified. This error occurred because of an unintentional duplication of a small number of figures during our monthly processing and has been corrected in this bulletin in line with our published National Accounts Revisions Policy.

The cause of this error has been investigated and measures have been taken to minimise the risk of similar errors in future.

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7. UK trade data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Dataset | Released 14 January 2022
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 14 January 2022
Monthly value of UK exports and imports of goods and services by current price, chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs).

UK trade in goods by classification of product by activity time series
Dataset | Released 15 December 2021
Quarterly and annual time series of the value of UK imports and exports of goods grouped by product. Goods are attributed to the activity of which they are the principal products.

Other related trade data
Web page | Released 14 January 2022
Other UK trade data related to this publication. These include 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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8. Glossary

Chained volume measures (CVMs)

CVM estimates are a "real" measure in that it has had the effect of inflation removed to measure the change in volume between consecutive periods, fixing the prices of goods and services in one period (the base year).

Current price measures (CPs)

These estimates measure the actual price paid for goods or services and are not adjusted for inflation. Unless otherwise stated, all current price data are provided in £ million and are seasonally adjusted.

Inflation

Inflation is the change in the average price level of goods and services over a period of time.

Implied deflators (IDEFs)

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.

Precious metals and non-monetary gold

Precious metals include precious metals, silver, platinum and palladium, and it forms part of the commodity group "unspecified goods". Non-monetary gold comprises the majority of this group and is the technical term for gold bullion not owned by central banks.

Trade balance

The trade balance is the difference between exports and imports or exports minus imports. When the value of exports is greater than the value of imports, the trade balance is in surplus. When the value of imports is greater than the value of exports, the trade balance is in deficit. The balance is sometimes referred to as "net exports".

A full Glossary of economic terms is available.

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9. Measuring the data

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

Over the coming months, all Office for National Statistics (ONS) datasets will be reviewed to ensure they meet the accessibility standards outlined in the Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on releasing statistics in spreadsheets. This is to ensure that all GSS outputs meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a legal requirement set out in The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

We welcome any feedback on these changes. Share your feedback by emailing the statistical contact at the top of the page.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) data impacts

Because of the challenges of data collection during the coronavirus pandemic, we have experienced challenges around the level of survey and data returns for this trade release.

Data sources

Data from the quarterly International Trade in Services (ITIS) Survey make up over 50% of trade in services data. View the UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) are the main source for travel services, making up around 8% of total trade. Following suspension of the survey in 2020 the IPS has now partially resumed. We continue to use the statistical model to produce our regular travel estimates and, for our Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2021 dataset onwards, will use the IPS deliveries to inform these modelled estimates. We will review this decision after deliveries of IPS data fully resume. View the UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) make up over 90% of trade in goods value and are the main source. We have worked closely with HMRC to prepare for the change in collection of customs data, which occurred at the end of the EU exit transition period. View further information in Impact of EU exit on the collection and compilation of UK trade statistics.

In line with international standards, our headline trade statistics contain the UK's exports and imports of non-monetary gold. View more information about the ONS' recording of non-monetary gold.

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

Method

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

View more detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics on the UK trade methodology web pages. 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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10. Strengths and limitations

National Statistics designation status

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade 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 by email to trade@ons.gov.uk.

Trade asymmetries

Asymmetries can be caused by a range of conceptual and measurement variations between the estimation practices of different countries. Statistical agencies are likely to have different source data, estimation methods, and methodological, geographical and definitional differences. More information on trade in goods asymmetries is published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), while analysis on trade in services asymmetries is published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Hannah Donnarumma
trade@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1329 447648