An insight into the UK Trade Figures

By Randa Saab Smith, Editmarket                                                                                             12.12.2012

Complementing internal and international politics, government policy, and other economic factors, studying the UK trade figures gives a good idea about the interactive nature of activities in relation to major UK news topics: Trade relations with the EU, Scotland’s unity with the UK, relations with UK strategic trading partners, and energy related issues. Trade figures highlight important facts which cannot be disregarded, and which need to be incorporated whenever related major and important decisions are being evaluated.

In 2011, the EU continued to be the major UK trading partner. UK’s total Exports were £294,501 mill; an increase of 12% over 2010, and total Imports were £393,047 mill; an increase of 9%. Exports to EU were 53% of total UK Exports in 2011, Exports to North America were the second in importance with only 15% share of UK exports. Imports from EU were 50.3% of total UK imports for the same period. Asia and Oceania imports were second to EU in importance; 19% share of total UK imports. UK Imports from North America were 10% of total UK imports. It is worth mentioning that N. America was the only country group that the UK had a positive trade balance with in 2011. Country groups’ ratios for Jan-Sep 2012 were in line with previous years’ ratios.

Although the UK trade had an increasing trend since 2008 in spite of the 2009 slow down, however, the trade deficit remained to be £98,546 mill in 2011, 41% of which was with the EU. With a segment of the population demanding the UK to leave the EU, one would question whether it is wise to confuse the UK’s trade relations with its largest market.

Scotland had £17,360 mill of exports in 2011 which were 6% of total UK exports to EU and non-EU. It had £12,190 mill in imports from EU and non EU countries, which was 3% of total UK’s imports. It had a positive trade balance of £5,170 mill. Scotland was one of the highest in UK’s exports growth in 2011. Main exports’ categories were machinery and transport equipment, beverages and tobacco.

For the period Jan-Sep 2012 Scotland’s export and imports ratios out of total UK figures, were similar to 2011; 6% (£12,747 mill) and 3% (£10,268mill) respectively,  with a positive trade balance of £2,479 mill. Those figures are only related to international trade and do not take into consideration trade figures with other UK countries.

With Scotland’s independence referendum approaching, and not to mention EU and other international issues and relations, if the answer was yea instead of nay, will the present level of trading provide enough sustenance for an independent Scotland?

While studying UK Trade partnerships in terms of main goods traded, in 2011 main Exports by SITC code were Machinery & Transport (35% of total exports), and Chemicals (18%). Main Imports by SITC code were Machinery & Transport (32%), Miscellaneous manufactured goods (15%) and Mineral fuels (14%).

Due to their special importance in the UK Trade, Mineral fuels; SITC code 3, and Machinery and Transport equipment; SITC code 7 were highlighted and studied in more detail.

In terms of importance as country groups, the UK imported 78% of Mineral fuels and lubricants from non-EU countries in 2011. 39% of total imports in this category came from non EU Western Europe, mainly from Norway. The second non-EU country group in importance was the MENA region; 17% of total UK Imports in this category. 75% of UK’s exports of Mineral fuels and lubricants went to EU countries.

As to countries, in 2011, Russia with 9% of total UK imports of Mineral fuels and lubricants was second in importance to Norway. Qatar was the third country in importance with 8% of total UK imports in this category- mainly Gas (10% of non-EU imports).

SITC code3: Mineral Fuels imports, two subsections: Petroleum and Gas were further analysed for a better understanding of the commercial and the political dynamics among trading countries

Norway was the main non-EU county of UK Petroleum imports, second in importance was Russia, then Nigeria, Algeria and Kuwait.

Qatar had the highest UK’s non-EU Gas imports in 2011 (55.3%), second was Norway then Nigeria.

There is no doubt that spreading imports of Mineral fuels along a large number of suppliers help avoid the risks that may affect the political stability in the MENA and other African regions.

In 2011 EU was the largest import market for the UK in Machinery and Transport equipment, 55.4% of UK exports in this category went to non-EU countries. Main non-EU regions of export and imports in this category for the UK in 2011 were Asia and Oceania, and North America. MENA was the third largest non-EU region market for UK exports of Machinery and Transport equipment.

For inquiries, details or for the full report with emphasis on Trade with MENA region, please contact:,  Tel/Fax: 00441634841008

 Data source is HM Revenue and Customs. Releases: 8 March 2012 for EU and non EU statistics, 6 December 2012 for EU and non EU statistics

Other data from “build your own tables” on:;

 Copyright© This report is copyright Randa Saab Smith- Editmarket


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