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Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

The United Kingdom is one of the biggest actors in international trade. Trade represents 58% of its GDP (World Bank, 2016). The UK is the world's second largest exporter and the fifth biggest importer of commercial services, and the tenth largest exporter and fifth largest importer of goods.

The UK's main customers are the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, China and France. British imports come essentially from Germany, China, the U.S. and France. The UK exports vehicles, gold, pharmaceutical products, turbines, as well as oil. Its main imports are similar in nature (vehicles, pharmaceutical products, gold, etc.). The UK has a structural trade deficit. Due to the current economic slowdown and the difficulties in the Eurozone, a worsening of the situation is likely. In 2016, the trade deficit reached GBP 25.4 billion, a decrease compared to 2015. The country enjoys a surplus in the services sector.

Given its vote in favour of leaving the EU, the UK will renegotiate its various trade agreements, which is expected to add an element of uncertainty to its international trade.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 695,220660,034690,466625,806635,762
Exports of Goods (million USD) 472,792540,616505,205460,446409,397
Imports of Services (million USD) 195,675202,225210,230207,704198,653
Exports of Services (million USD) 317,153332,276361,350345,052327,176
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.93.42.55.52.5
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.61.11.56.11.4
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 32.032.030.129.230.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 29.829.828.127.628.1
Trade Balance (million USD) -175,230-188,972-201,569-182,879-181,165
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 61.861.858.156.958.1

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2017; World Bank - 2017

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2016
United States 15.0%
Germany 10.6%
France 6.4%
Netherlands 6.2%
Ireland 5.6%
Switzerland 4.8%
China 4.4%
Belgium 3.8%
Italy 3.2%
Spain 3.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2016
Germany 13.8%
China 9.4%
United States 9.0%
Netherlands 7.4%
France 5.6%
Belgium 5.0%
Switzerland 4.2%
Italy 3.8%
Spain 3.4%
Ireland 2.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2017

 

Main Products

415.9 bn USD of products exported in 2016
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 9.9%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 5.3%
Turbo-jets, turbo-propellers and other gas turbines 4.7%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.8%
Parts of aircraft and spacecraft of heading 8801 or 8802, n.e.s. 3.6%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 3.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 2.2%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.1%
Undenatured ethyl alcohol of an alcoholic strength by volume of < 80%; spirits, liqueurs and other spirituous beverages (excl. compound alcoholic preparations of a kind used for the manufacture of beverages) 1.7%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 1.5%
635.6 bn USD of products imported in 2016
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 9.1%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 7.2%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.0%
Turbo-jets, turbo-propellers and other gas turbines 2.7%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 2.5%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 2.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 2.3%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 2.2%
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 2.1%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 1.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2017

 
 
 

Main Services

330.9 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Other business services
33.25%
Financial services
20.16%
Travel
13.76%
Transportation
11.07%
Insurance services
5.96%
Royalties and license fees
5.30%
Computer and information services
4.75%
Communications services
2.66%
Government services
1.21%
Cultural and recreational services
1.16%
Construction services
0.73%
205.7 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Travel
30.83%
Other business services
30.01%
Transportation
15.95%
Royalties and license fees
6.04%
Financial services
4.79%
Computer and information services
3.86%
Communications services
3.21%
Cultural and recreational services
2.38%
Government services
1.94%
Construction services
0.86%
Insurance services
0.11%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
British Pound (GBP)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Very limited exchange risk since the pound sterling is a major currency. However, the 'Brexit' vote provoked a sharp decline in the pound's value, signalling a certain degree of volatility.
 
 
Monetary Indicators 20122013201420152016
British Pound (GBP) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 0.630.640.610.650.74

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
Main International Economic Cooperation
As a member of the European Union, the UK is also part of the European Union Customs Union. It participates in the free trade arrangements of the EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, it has not adopted the Euro as its currency, which is the British Pound. It is a member of the World Trade Organisation and G8. The European Union is a signatory to multilateral and bilateral agreements with many countries.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention
Yes

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
- Bills of Lading
-
Consular Invoices
-
Certificates of Origin
-
Commercial Invoices
-
Dangerous Goods Certification
-
C3
-
C2
-
Valuation Declaration and General Valuation Statement (GVS)
Further information on the website business link.
Free Zones
In 2015, there is only one Free Zone: the Ronaldsway Airport Free Zone (Ballasala, Isle of Man).
For Further Information
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)
Non Tariff Barriers
In accordance with its European Union membership, the United Kingdom applies the European Union (EU) rules that are in force in all European Union countries. While the EU has a rather liberal foreign trade policy, there is a certain number of restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products aimed at favouring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems for the goods entering EU territory.
Moreover, for sanitary reasons, regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (after being allowed in the European territory), their presence should be systematically specified on packaging. The beef cattle bred on hormones is also forbidden to import.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
The United States have registered a complaint against the United Kingdom regarding the Customs classification of certain computer equipment. Further information on WIPO website.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
UK's commercial policy, as seen by the WTO

Learn more about How to Export to the United Kingdom on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
BSI Group, British Standards Institution
Integration in the International Standards Network
The UK is a member of the International Organisation for Standardisation and a full member of the International Electrotechnical Commission. It is also a member state of the International Telecommunication Union.
There are also some specific EU standards: European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), European Telcommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Standardisation (ECS), handling all other standards.
Obligation to Use Standards
Most standards are voluntary although they can be made mandatory by law or regulation. Products are subject to the European Union's legislation (General product safety Directive, technical legislation) as well as to the national british legislation.
Classification of Standards
There are over 27,000 British Standards in use and 2,000 are produced annually. CE is the European certification mark. It is compulsory for a country to be able to sell on the market.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
By complying with British Standards, suppliers demonstrate that their products or services are safe and fit for purpose. Customers look for the independent verification that technical standards provide. Certification marks earned by businesses whose products and practices consistently stand up to rigorous examination are instantly recognizable and act as respected badges of quality, safety and performance.
Online Consultation of Standards
The BSI Shop offers a full catalogue of standards and publications, many of which are available as PDF downloads; on-line catalog of European Standards; ISO catalog; IEC catalog.
Certification Organisations
The United Kingdom Accreditation Service. Follow this link for a list of accreditation standards
Associations of Standards Users
BSS is the UK member of the International Federation of Standard Users (IFAN).

 

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Last Updates: November 2017