UK trade: September 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:
11 November 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
10 December 2019

1. Main points

  • The total UK trade deficit (goods and services) narrowed £5.0 billion to £6.4 billion in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019, largely because of rising exports.

  • Excluding unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), the total trade deficit narrowed £3.3 billion to £6.5 billion in Quarter 3 2019.

  • Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit narrowed £6.1 billion to £4.3 billion in Quarter 3 2019.

  • In current prices, the trade in services surplus widened by £4.0 billion to £26.8 billion as exports increased £4.5 billion to £76.0 billion and imports rose by a lesser £0.5 billion to £49.2 billion in Quarter 3 2019.

  • The trade in goods deficit narrowed by £1.0 billion to £33.2 billion as exports increased £4.3 billion to £89.7 billion and imports rose by £3.3 billion to £122.9 billion in Quarter 3 2019.

  • The trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries narrowed £2.3 billion to £9.9 billion in Quarter 3 2019, while with EU countries it widened £1.3 billion to £23.3 billion.

  • The total trade deficit widened £18.9 billion to £51.6 billion in the 12 months to September 2019, mainly because of the trade in goods deficit, which widened £13.9 billion to £152.7 billion; the services surplus narrowed by a lesser £5.0 billion to £101.2 billion.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

Data revision policy

In accordance with National Accounts Revisions Policy, data in this release have been revised back to July 2019 when compared with our previous trade bulletin from 10 October 2019. Data in this release are consistent with the GDP first quarterly estimate for Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019 also published on 11 November 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. 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 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 regarding 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 January 2020 publication will include data up to the end of November 2019.

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.

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

This year, because of the very demanding set of changes in the 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. Total trade deficit narrowed £5.0 billion in Quarter 3 2019

The total trade deficit (goods and services) narrowed £5.0 billion to £6.4 billion in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019. This was largely because of exports increasing £8.8 billion to £165.7 billion, while imports increased £3.8 billion to £172.1 billion.

The narrowing of the total trade deficit in Quarter 3 2019 was largely because of a widening of the trade in services surplus by £4.0 billion to £26.8 billion. Services exports increased £4.5 billion to £76.0 billion, while services imports increased £0.5 billion to £49.2 billion.

The trade in goods deficit narrowed £1.0 billion to £33.2 billion. This was driven by a £4.3 billion increase in goods exports to £89.7 billion, while goods imports increased by a lesser £3.3 billion to £122.9 billion.

Figure 1 and Table 1 show the change to goods, services and total trade balances, along with exports and imports, in Quarter 3 2019 compared with Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2019.

The widening of the trade in services surplus in Quarter 3 2019 was because of a £4.5 billion rise in services exports to £76.0 billion, driven largely by other business services, intellectual property, financial services and travel. Services imports increased by a lesser £0.5 billion to £49.2 billion.

The narrowing of the trade in goods deficit in Quarter 3 2019 was because of a £4.3 billion increase in goods exports to £89.7 billion, driven largely by machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, which rose by £2.6 billion and £1.2 billion respectively.

The increase in goods exports in Quarter 3 2019 was partly offset by the £3.3 billion rise in goods imports to £122.9 billion. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased by £3.4 billion, driven largely by aircraft and cars, which increased by £1.1 billion and £0.7 billion respectively. Chemical imports also rose by £1.3 billion, driven mainly by a £1.0 billion rise in imports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

Excluding unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), the total trade deficit narrowed £3.3 billion to £6.5 billion in Quarter 3 2019. Exports increased £8.5 billion to £164.0 billion, while imports rose by £5.1 billion to £170.5 billion. The trade in goods deficit, excluding unspecified goods, widened £0.7 billion to £33.2 billion, because of a £4.6 billion rise in goods imports to £121.3 billion, offset partially by a £3.9 billion rise in goods exports to £88.1 billion.

Figure 2 shows the UK trade balances quarter-on-quarter from Quarter 3 2017 to Quarter 3 2019.

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4. The trade in goods deficit narrowed with non-EU countries, but widened with EU countries in Quarter 3 2019

The trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries narrowed £2.3 billion to £9.9 billion in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019, while the deficit with EU countries widened £1.3 billion to £23.3 billion.

Exports to non-EU countries increased £2.8 billion to £47.5 billion in Quarter 3 2019. This was driven largely by rising exports of machinery and transport equipment of £2.3 billion, which included a £1.1 billion increase in exports of cars. Imports from non-EU countries increased £0.6 billion to £57.4 billion in Quarter 3 2019, largely because of a £1.6 billion rise in imports of machinery and transport equipment. This was offset partially by unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), which fell by £1.3 billion.

Exports to EU countries rose £1.5 billion to £42.2 billion in Quarter 3 2019. This was driven largely by increases in chemicals, unspecified goods, and machinery and transport equipment, which rose £0.6 billion, £0.3 billion and £0.3 billion respectively.

Imports from EU countries rose £2.8 billion to £65.5 billion in Quarter 3 2019. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased by £1.8 billion, largely because of increased imports of cars and aircraft of £0.6 billion and £0.4 billion respectively. Chemicals also increased by £1.2 billion, driven largely by a £0.8 billion increase in medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

Figure 3 shows the changes in goods exports, imports and balances with EU and non-EU countries in Quarter 3 2019.

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5. Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit narrowed in Quarter 3 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 deficit (goods and services) narrowed £6.1 billion to £4.3 billion in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019. The trade in goods deficit narrowed £3.6 billion to £29.1 billion, whereas the trade in services surplus widened £2.6 billion to £24.8 billion.

Goods exports increased £3.8 billion to £79.5 billion in Quarter 3 2019, while goods imports increased £0.2 billion to £108.6 billion. The rise in goods exports was largely because of increases in machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals of £1.9 billion and £1.3 billion respectively. The rise in goods imports was mainly because of increased imports of machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals of £1.9 billion and £1.0 billion respectively, offset partially by a £1.6 billion decrease in imports of unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold).

Services exports increased £3.6 billion to £71.4 billion while services imports increased by £1.0 billion to £46.6 billion.

Total trade import prices grew 1.4% in Quarter 3 2019. This was driven largely by goods import prices, which grew 2.6%, partially offset by services import prices, which fell by 1.2%. Rising goods import prices were seen across all commodity groups, driven largely by unspecified goods, animal and vegetable oils and fats, and material manufactures, which rose 8.2%, 3.8% and 3.6% respectively.

Figure 4 shows the UK trade balances on a CVM basis, quarter on quarter from September 2017 to September 2019.

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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:
  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. 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?

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:
  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. 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 September 2019

The total trade deficit (goods and services) widened £18.9 billion to £51.6 billion in the 12 months to September 2019, mainly because of a widening of the trade in goods deficit of £13.9 billion to £152.7 billion (Figure 5).

Imports of goods increased £25.1 billion to £506.3 billion, while exports increased by a lesser £11.3 billion to £353.6 billion.

Rising imports of goods in the 12 months to September 2019 were largely because of unspecified goods (which includes non-monetary gold), machinery and transport equipment, miscellaneous manufactures and material manufactures, which increased by £9.3 billion, £7.2 billion, £4.4 billion and £3.2 billion respectively. This was offset partially by a fall of £2.3 billion in fuel imports.

The £11.3 billion increase of goods exports to £353.6 billion was driven mainly by an increase in miscellaneous manufactures, which increased by £6.0 billion. Other drivers were unspecified goods, fuels, and machinery and transport equipment, which increased by £1.9 billion, £1.6 billion and £1.5 billion respectively.

The trade in services surplus narrowed £5.0 billion to £101.2 billion in the 12 months to September 2019, as imports increased by £13.1 billion to £200.2 billion and exports increased by a lesser £8.1 billion to £301.3 billion.

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

The £13.9 billion widening of the trade in goods deficit to £152.7 billion in the 12 months to September 2019 was mainly because of trade with non-EU countries (Figure 6). The trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries widened £11.8 billion to £57.2 billion, while the trade in goods deficit with EU countries widened by a lesser £2.0 billion to £95.5 billion, in the 12 months to September 2019.

The widening of the trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries in the 12 months to September 2019 was mainly because of imports, which increased £20.7 billion to £239.1 billion, while exports increased by a lesser £8.9 billion to £181.9 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 £9.7 billion, £4.2 billion and £2.7 billion respectively.

The increase in non-EU exports was driven largely by a £4.7 billion increase in exports of miscellaneous manufactures, as well as exports of chemicals and unspecified goods, which both increased by £1.4 billion.

The £2.0 billion widening of the trade in goods deficit with EU countries in the 12 months to September 2019 was because of increased imports, by £4.4 billion to £267.3 billion. Exports increased by a lesser £2.4 billion to £171.7 billion.

Increased imports from EU countries were largely because of machinery and transport equipment, and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased £3.0 billion and £1.7 billion respectively, offset partially by a £2.4 billion fall in imports of fuels.

Rising exports to EU countries were largely because of machinery and transport equipment, fuels and miscellaneous manufactures, which increased £1.8 billion, £1.4 billion and £1.3 billion respectively.

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9. Data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Released 11 November 2019
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 11 November 2019
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 11 November 2019
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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11. 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.

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

  • uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

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

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