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Statistical bulletin: UK Trade, December 2013 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 07 February 2014 Download PDF

Key Points

  • UK Trade shows the extent of import and export activity and is a key contributor to the overall economic growth in the UK.
  • Seasonally adjusted, the UK's deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £1.0 billion in December 2013, compared with a deficit of £3.6 billion in November 2013.
  • There was a deficit of £7.7 billion on goods, partly offset by an estimated surplus of £6.7 billion on services.
  • The narrowing of the total trade deficit reflects both an increase in exports (2.1%) and a fall in imports (3.8%). By commodity, the strongest exports were in oil, chemicals and aircraft. The largest falls in imports were in aircraft and ships.
  • The goods deficit in countries outside the EU has narrowed in each of the last six months. Since July 2013 exports to countries outside the EU have increased 9.3% and imports have decreased 9.6%.

Key Figures

Table 1: Balance of UK Trade in Goods and Services, December 2013

£ billion
Balance of trade in goods Balance of trade in services Total trade balance
EU Non-EU World
2012 Dec -4.8 -4.1 -8.9 6.5 -2.4
2013 Oct -6.4 -3.2 -9.6 6.2 -3.4
Nov -6.7 -3.0 -9.8 6.2 -3.6
Dec -5.5 -2.2 -7.7 6.7 -1.0

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 1: Balance of UK Trade

Figure 1: Balance of UK Trade
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 2: Balance of UK Trade in Goods

Figure 2: Balance of UK Trade in Goods
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Summary

The deficit of trade in goods and services for December 2013 was £1.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £3.6 billion in the previous month. The deficit on trade in goods was £7.7 billion in December 2013; the trade position reflects exports minus imports.

Exports of goods increased by 1.9% between December and November 2013 to £25.0 billion. Imports for the same period decreased by 4.7% to £32.8 billion.

In December 2013, exports of goods to the European Union (EU) increased by £0.3 billion to £12.4 billion, reflecting an increase in the export of fuels of £0.4 billion. Imports from the EU decreased by £0.9 billion to £17.9 billion.

In December 2013, exports of goods to countries outside of the EU increased by £0.1 billion to £12.6 billion. Imports from countries outside of the EU decreased by £0.7 billion to £14.8 billion, the lowest since May 2010. The fall is mainly attributable to the import of transport equipment; primarily aircraft and ships.

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, it is recommended to compare the latest three months against the preceding three months and the same three months of 2012.

The deficit on trade in goods decreased by £2.5 billion to £27.1 billion in Q4 2013, compared with the previous quarter. Exports of goods in Q4 2013 decreased by 1.1% to £74.5 billion. Imports of goods decreased by 3.2% in Q4 2013 to £101.6 billion. The fall in imports in Q4 was mainly attributed to decreases in imports of fuels and also material manufactures.

Exports to countries within the EU decreased by 6.1% to £36.7 billion in Q4 2013, reflecting a quarterly fall in oil exports of £1.8 billion. Imports from EU countries decreased 0.3% in Q4 2013 but were 4.4% higher than in the same quarter in 2012.

Exports to countries outside the EU rose by 4.3% to £37.8 billion in Q4 2013. Imports from countries outside of the EU decreased by 6.4% in Q4 2013 and were 7.3% lower compared with the same quarter in 2012.

The availability of 2013 as a whole provides an opportunity to look at the movements and changes within trade in goods particularly since the global economic recovery beginning in 2010. Over the last three years the value of exports has risen by 14.7% and similarly, imports have risen by 13.4%. During this time all key commodities have moved positively in both the export and import markets.

In volume terms, exports grew by 7.2% since 2010. Again, positive growth was visible in all key commodities with the exception of exports of basic materials and exports of fuels. The volume of oil exports fell by 2.4 billion tonnes.

The volume of total goods imported rose by 5.2% since 2010. Imports of oil rose marginally by 0.2 billion tonnes in this period.

This bulletin also reports on trade in services. However, the information on trade in services is mainly obtained from quarterly surveys, in some cases underpinned by larger annual surveys. That means that the data for the latest months are inevitably uncertain.

Longer Term Perspective

The value of trade in goods grew steadily from the beginning of 2007 to mid 2008. The onset of the global economic downturn in mid 2008 affected the economic performance of the UK's major trading partners, and the value of both UK exports and imports fell sharply until Q2 2009. Growth in the value of trade in goods resumed from mid 2009 with improving global economic conditions. However, the value of both UK exports and imports has remained flat since mid 2011 with the continuing difficulties in many economies.

In 2013, the deficit on trade in goods narrowed by £0.4 billion to £108.3 billion (annually). The level of exports increased to a record £304.3 billion in 2013, up 1.3% from £300.5 billion in 2012.

However, the rise in exports was accompanied by an increase in imports to a record £412.6 billion in 2013, up 0.8% from £409.2 billion in 2012. Despite these record levels of exports and imports, annual growth in the value of trade in goods has slowed considerably since 2010 and 2011.

Value of UK Trade in Goods

In December 2013, the UK's deficit on trade in goods was £7.7 billion, £2.1 billion lower than in November 2013.

Total exports increased by £0.5 billion (1.9%) to £25.0 billion and total imports decreased by £1.6 billion (4.7%) to £32.8 billion.  At the commodity level:

Table 2: Change in Key Commodity Value, December 2013 Compared with November 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +389 -89
Cars +29 -19
Consumer goods other than cars -41 -210
Intermediate goods -71 -243
Capital goods -132 -284
Chemicals +196 -142
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -84 -284
Aircraft +207 -301

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly commodity movements for aircraft are only detailed where they equal or exceed £200m.

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In Q4 2013, the deficit on trade in goods was £27.1 billion, compared with a deficit of £29.6 billion in Q3 2013.

Total exports decreased by £0.8 billion (1.1%) to £74.5 billion and total imports decreased by £3.4 billion (3.2%) to £101.6 billion.  At commodity level:

Table 3: Change in Key Commodity Value, Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') -1,061 -1426
Cars +377 +68
Consumer goods other than cars -140 -74
Intermediate goods +40 -458
Capital goods -161 -226
Chemicals +368 +107
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -465 -1112
Aircraft +481 :
Precious Stones : -881

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Quarterly commodity movements for aircraft and precious stones are only detailed where they equal or exceed £400m.

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Figure 3: Value of UK Trade in Goods

Figure 3: Value of UK Trade in Goods
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 4: Value of UK Trade in Goods Excluding Oil

Figure 4: Value of UK Trade in Goods Excluding Oil
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Trade in Goods - EU Analysis

In December 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries decreased by £1.2 billion to £5.5 billion.

Exports to the EU increased by £0.3 billion (2.7%) to £12.4 billion and imports from the EU decreased by £0.9 billion (4.7%) to £17.9 billion.  At the commodity level:

Table 4: Change in Key Commodity Value (EU), December 2013 Compared with November 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +357 -235
Cars -23 +3
Consumer goods other than cars +9 -94
Intermediate goods -12 -174
Capital goods -81 -268
Chemicals +130 +33
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -101 -158

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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In Q4 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries increased by £2.2 billion to £18.7 billion, when compared with Q3 2013.

Exports to the EU decreased by £2.4 billion (6.1%) to £36.7 billion and imports from the EU decreased by £0.2 billion (0.3%) to £55.4 billion.  At the commodity level:

Table 5: Change in Key Commodity Value (EU), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section 'trade in oil') -1,795 +460
Cars -120 +66
Consumer goods other than cars +28 -96
Intermediate goods -221 -281
Capital goods -32 -137
Chemicals -51 +155
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -137 -48

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 5: Balance of Trade in Goods - EU Countries

Figure 5: Balance of Trade in Goods - EU Countries
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Trade in Goods - Non-EU Analysis

In December 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.9 billion to £2.2 billion.

Exports to non-EU countries increased by £0.1 billion (1.2%) to £12.6 billion and imports from non-EU countries decreased by £0.7 billion (4.5%) to £14.8 billion.  At the commodity level:

Table 6: Change in Key Commodity Value (Non-EU), December 2013 Compared with November 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +32 +146
Cars +52 -22
Consumer goods other than cars -50 -116
Intermediate goods -59 -69
Capital goods -51 -16
Chemicals +66 -175
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +17 -126
Aircraft +229 :

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Monthly commodity movements for aircraft are only detailed where they equal or exceed £200m.

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In Q4 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £4.7 billion to £8.4 billion, when compared with Q3 2013.

Exports to non-EU countries increased by £1.6 billion (4.3%) to £37.8 billion and imports from non-EU countries decreased by £3.2 billion (6.4%) to £46.2 billion.  At the commodity level:

Table 7: Change in Key Commodity Value (Non-EU), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +734 -1,886
Cars +497 +2
Consumer goods other than cars -168 +22
Intermediate goods +261 -177
Capital goods -129 -89
Chemicals +419 -48
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -328 -1,064

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 6: Balance of Trade in Goods - Non-EU Countries

Figure 6: Balance of Trade in Goods - Non-EU Countries
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Trade in Goods - One Month Geographical Analysis

December 2013 Compared with November 2013

Note: Monthly country movements are only detailed in this section where they are equal to or exceed £0.1 billion.

Within EU countries, exports of goods to the Netherlands increased by £0.2 billion and exports to Germany increased by £0.1 billion. Among countries outside of the EU, exports to Switzerland increased by £0.2 billion and exports to Hong Kong increased by £0.1 billion. Exports to South Korea decreased by £0.2 billion.

Within EU countries, imports from the Irish Republic increased by £0.3 billion. Imports from Denmark and Germany decreased by £0.3 billion and imports from the Netherlands decreased by £0.2 billion. Imports from Belgium & Luxembourg and France also decreased, each by £0.1 billion. Among countries outside of the EU, imports from Norway increased by £0.3 billion. Imports from South Korea decreased by £0.2 billion and imports from Kuwait and the USA both decreased by £0.1 billion.

Table 8: Change in Monthly Trade with Significant Partner Countries, December 2013 Compared with November 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
December 2013 Value 1-month Change December 2013 Value 1-month Change
1 USA 3,289 +22 1 Germany 4,594 -269
2 Germany 2,463 +138 2 China 2,870 -43
3 Netherlands 2,055 +192 3 Netherlands 2,742 -195
4 France 1,731 +5 4 USA 2,192 -111
5 Irish Republic 1,551 -44 5 France 1,963 -137
6 China 1,111 +42 6 Belgium/Luxembourg 1,674 -105
7 Belgium/Luxembourg 1,057 -13 7 Norway 1,389 +306
8 Spain 770 +29 8 Italy 1,316 -24
9 Italy 767 -3 9 Irish Republic 1,242 +269
10 United Arab Emirates 548 +10 10 Spain 1067 -75

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2013 (see attached table 14).
  2. USA includes Puerto Rico.

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Figure 7: Significant Partner Countries, 1 Month Balances, December 2013

Figure 7: Significant Partner Countries, 1 Month Balances, December 2013
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Trade in Goods - Quarterly Geographical Analysis

Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Note: Quarterly country movements are only detailed in this section where they are equal to or exceed £0.3 billion.

Within EU counties, exports of goods to the Netherlands decreased by £1.0 billion and exports to Belgium & Luxembourg decreased by £0.3 billion. Among countries outside of the EU, exports to South Korea increased by £1.2 billion.

Within EU countries, there were no import movements equal to or exceeding £0.3 billion. Among countries outside of the EU, imports from Russia increased by £0.4 billion. Imports from Nigeria decreased by £0.7 billion and imports from Norway decreased by £0.5 billion. There were also decreases in imports from Canada and Saudi Arabia, with a fall of £0.3 billion each.

Table 9: Change in Quarterly Trade with Significant Partner Countries, Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
December 2013 Value Quarterly change December 2013 Value Quarterly change
1 USA 9,851 -131 1 Germany 14,256 -202
2 Germany 7,275 -169 2 Netherlands 8,744 +11
3 Netherlands 5,808 -1043 3 China 8,634 +73
4 France 5,144 -250 4 USA 6,722 -158
5 Irish Republic 4,735 -33 5 France 6,061 -165
6 Belgium/Luxembourg 3,313 -338 6 Belgium/Luxembourg 5,107 -70
7 China 3,250 +170 7 Italy 3,974 +38
8 Spain 2,222 0 8 Norway 3,846 -455
9 Italy 2,201 +66 9 Irish Republic 3,294 +295
10 United Arab Emirates 1,560 -55 10 Spain 3,288 +128

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2013 (see attached table 14).
  2. USA includes Puerto Rico.

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Figure 8: Significant Partner Countries, Quarterly Balances, Quarter 4 2013

Figure 8: Significant Partner Countries, Quarterly Balances, Quarter 4 2013
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Volume of Total Trade in Goods, Excluding Oil and Extracts

Between November and December 2013, the total volume of exports increased by 0.6% and the total volume of imports decreased by 3.9%.  At the commodity level:

Table 10: Change in Key Commodity Volume, December 2013 Compared with November 2013

        Exports % change Imports % change
Food, beverages and tobacco +1.9 +3.9
Basic materials -8.1 -0.9
Semi-manufactured goods; of which +1.0 -5.8
  Chemicals +4.2 -4.7
  Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -2.7 -8.4
Finished manufactured goods; of which +2.6 -6.2
  Cars +2.7 -0.7
  Consumer goods other than cars +5.3 -5.6
  Intermediate goods -1.8 -4.4
  Capital goods -1.9 -5.2

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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In Q4 2013, the volume of exports increased by 1.5% and the volume of imports decreased by 0.6%, when compared with the previous quarter.  At the commodity level:

Table 11: Change in Key Commodity Volume, Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports % change Imports % change
Food, beverages and tobacco +1.9 -0.3
Basic materials +6.1 +0.3
Semi-manufactured goods; of which +1.0 -2.3
Chemicals +5.8 +1.0
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -1.2 -2.5
Finished manufactured goods; of which +1.7 -0.9
Cars +6.8 +1.1
Consumer goods other than cars +1.5 +0.6
Intermediate goods +1.2 -1.7
Capital goods -3.0 -0.9

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 9: Volume of Exports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Figure 9: Volume of Exports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Figure 10: Volume of Imports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Figure 10: Volume of Imports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Table 11: Change in Key Commodity Volume, Quarter 4 2013 Compared with Quarter 3 2013

Exports % change Imports % change
Food, beverages and tobacco +1.9 -0.3
Basic materials +6.1 +0.3
Semi-manufactured goods; of which +1.0 -2.3
Chemicals +5.8 +1.0
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -1.2 -2.5
Finished manufactured goods; of which +1.7 -0.9
Cars +6.8 +1.1
Consumer goods other than cars +1.5 +0.6
Intermediate goods +1.2 -1.7
Capital goods -3.0 -0.9

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Export and Import Prices for Trade in Goods (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

In December 2013, compared with November 2013, export prices decreased by 0.4% and import prices decreased by 0.6%.  Excluding the oil price effect, export prices and import both decreased by 0.9%, when compared with November 2013.

In Q4 2013, compared with Q3 2013, export prices decreased by 2.2% and import prices decreased by 1.7%.  Excluding the oil price effect, export prices decreased by 1.7% and import prices decreased by 1.3%.

Trade in Oil

In December 2013, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £0.5 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.0 billion in November 2013.  Oil exports increased by £0.4 billion to £3.1 billion and oil imports decreased by £0.1 billion to £3.6 billion.

In Q4 2013, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £2.7 billion, compared with a deficit of £3.1 billion in Q3 2013.  Oil exports decreased by £1.1 billion to £8.7 billion and oil imports decreased by £1.4 billion to £11.4 billion.

Figure 11: Balance of Trade in Oil

Figure 11: Balance of Trade in Oil
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Trade in Services

In December 2013, the UK's estimated surplus on trade in services was £6.7 billion.

Exports in December 2013 were estimated to have been £16.5 billion and imports £9.8 billion.

In Q4 2013, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £19.0 billion.

Total exports were £48.8 billion and total imports were £29.7 billion.

Figure 12: Value of UK Trade in Services

Figure 12: Value of UK Trade in Services
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Records Sheet

The UK Trade record information for December 2013 can be accessed at the UK Trade Records Sheet, December 2013 (41.5 Kb Excel sheet) .

Background notes

  1. What's New?

    Article on Non-Monetary Gold

    On 24 January 2014 ONS published an article ' Measurement of Nonmonetary Gold (138.2 Kb Pdf) ' describing changes that will be implemented from September 2014 on how gold will be treated in the National Accounts to comply with European statistical guidelines.

    Revisions

    In this release, periods from January 2013 are open for revision.

    EMU Enlargment

    As of 1 January 2014, Latvia joined the European Monetary Union (EMU). Therefore the EMU totals in the January 2014 UK Trade release will include Latvia.

  2. Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) Fraud

    Users should also be aware that for some data prior to April 2012, the monthly data does not sum precisely to the quarters for the MTIC series due to rounding.

  3. UK Trade designated as National Statistics

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;

    •  are well explained and readily accessible;

    • are produced according to sound methods, and

    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

  4. Special Events

    An article outlining the ONS policy on special events is available on the ONS website.

  5. Code of Practice for Official Statistics

    National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2014.

  6. Short Guide to UK Trade

    Ever since statistics on exports and imports of goods were first collected in 1697 UK trade has been one of the country’s key economic indicators.

    All information included in the monthly UK Trade statistical bulletin is on a Balance of Payments (BoP) basis and is seasonally adjusted unless otherwise specified. The release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with index numbers of volume and price, figures analysed by broad commodity group (values and indices) and according to geographical area (values only). In addition the Trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.

    Data appearing in the UK Trade statistical bulletin are also used as a direct input into the quarterly Balance of Payments and National Accounts.

    Interpreting the data

    Monthly commodity movements for food, beverages & tobacco, basic materials, fuels other than oil and erratics (ships, aircraft, precious stones, and silver) are only detailed in this statistical bulletin where they are equal to or exceed £200 million (£400 million for three monthly comparisons).

    Monthly country movements are only detailed in this statistical bulletin where they are equal to or exceed £0.1 billion (£0.3 billion for three monthly comparisons).

    In months where quarterly and three monthly ending percentage changes for index data coincide there may be small differences between the data for methodological reasons. Quarterly data are the indexed form of an underlying constant price (for volume indices) or consistent quantity (for price indices) series. Three month ending data are the average of the index data in that period.

    VAT Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) fraud  

    Import figures for trade in goods include adjustments to allow for the impact of VAT MTIC fraud.

    The adjustments to trade in goods relate only to part of the carousel version of VAT MTIC fraud. This fraud leads to under recording of imports as fraudsters import goods from the EU, which they then sell on before disappearing without paying VAT on that sale. The goods are eventually exported. Such exports are declared and are therefore already reflected in the UK’s trade in goods statistics.

    Changes to the pattern of trading associated with MTIC fraud can make it difficult to analyse trade by commodity group and by country as changes in the impact of activity associated with this fraud affect both imports and exports. However, the MTIC trade adjustments are added to the EU import estimates derived from Intrastat returns as it is this part of the trading chain that is not generally recorded. In particular, adjustments affect trade in capital goods and intermediate goods - these categories include mobile phones and computer components, which are still the most widely affected goods.

    International convention determines that the treatment of the impact is to adjust imports upwards by the relevant amounts of missing declarations (non-response). However, users may wish to interpret short term movements in imports excluding that part of the fraudulent activity that is not included in the import estimates, and for this purpose an analysis of the import figures with the VAT MTIC adjustments excluded is shown in Table 13.

    Definitions and explanations 
     
    A glossary of terms is published in the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2013.

    Use of the data

    UK Trade is a key economic indicator due to the importance of international trade to the UK economy. It is also a very timely statistic, providing an early indicator of what is happening more generally in the economy.

    In addition, it is a major component of two other key economic statistics – UK gross domestic product (GDP) and the UK Balance of Payments. This means that there is a threefold potential for UK Trade statistics to inform the Government’s view of the UK economy, as well as the views of others, such as economists, City analysts, academics, the media and international organisations.

    Notes on tables

    Rounding:
    The sum of constituent items in tables do not always agree exactly with the totals shown due to rounding.

    Symbols:
    ..    Not applicable
    -     Nil or less than half the final digit shown.

  7. Methods

    Composition of the data

    Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2013 .

    Seasonal adjustment

    Seasonal adjustment aims to remove effects associated with the time of the year or the arrangement of the calendar so that movements within a time series may be more easily interpreted.

    Deflation

    It is common for the value of a group of financial transactions to be measured in several time periods. The values measured will include both the change in the volume sold and the effect of the change of prices over that year. Deflation is the process whereby the effect of price change is removed from a set of values.

    Chain-linked indices (chained volume measures) which are indexed to form the volume series in this bulletin differ from fixed base indices in that the growth from one year to the next is estimated by weighting the components using the contribution to value of trade in the immediately preceding year (effectively re-basing every year). This series of annually re-weighted annual growths is then ‘chain-linked’ to produce a continuous series.

    The implied price deflators derived by comparing current price data to chained volume measures data are not the same as the price indices published in this statistical bulletin because the former are current weighted while the latter are base (2010) weighted.

    Changes in trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud mean that comparisons of volume and prices (both including and excluding trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud) should be treated with a great deal of caution.  
      
    A paper (384.4 Kb Pdf) , Statistics on Trade in Goods (GSS Methodological Series No. 36) describing the adjustments that need to be applied to conform to IMF definitions for Balance of Payments and the division of responsibility between ONS and HMRC is available on the ONS website.

    The Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) data used as inputs to this statistical bulletin are collected and published by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on an International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) basis.

  8. Quality

    Basic quality information

    Accuracy: Trade in goods figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in the light of (a) late trader data, revisions to trade prices and revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud, and (b) revisions to seasonal adjustment factors which are re-estimated every month.

    Trade in services estimates have been derived from a number of monthly and quarterly sources. For components where no monthly data are available, estimates have been derived on the basis of recent trends. The results should be used with appropriate caution, as they are therefore likely to be less reliable than those for trade in goods.

    Reliability: Revisions to data provide one indication of the reliability of key indicators. The table below shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions which have been made to the data covering a five year period. A statistical test has been applied to the average revision to find out if it is statistically significantly different from zero. An asterisk (*) shows that the test is significant. An article explaining the past revisions performance for UK Trade statistics and what is being done to improve the first published estimates was published on 9 May 2005 on the ONS website.

    Table 12: Revisions Analysis, UK Trade, December 2013

    £million
    Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later
    Value in latest period Average over the last 5 years (mean revision) Average over the last 5 years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    Total trade exports (IKBH) 41,554 826 1,063
    Total trade imports (IKBI) 42,580 322 631
    Total trade balance (IKBJ) -1,026 511* 674

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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    The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from February 2009 (for December 2008) to January 2013 (for November 2012). Revisions spreadsheets giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available on the ONS website.  
     
    An article (2.33 Mb Pdf) analysing past revisions to quarterly balance of payments current account data was published in the May 2007 edition of Economic & Labour Market Review. It is available on the ONS website.

    More information about revisions material in this statistical bulletin can be found on the ONS website.

  9. The coverage of EMU countries was extended to cover Cyprus and Malta from July 2008, Slovakia from January 2009 and Estonia from January 2011. Some EU and non-EU breakdowns of commodity data for chained volume measures which are available on request may be less reliable than the current price data. Please consult Katherine Kent on 01633 455829 if you are considering using them.

    Data have been combined for the United States & Puerto Rico and for Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Sharjah (the United Arab Emirates) from January 2009 onwards. Estimates are separately available for the United States and Dubai up until the end of 2008 on request.

  10. Summary quality report

    A Summary Quality Report (91.3 Kb Pdf) for this statistical bulletin and associated data can be found on the ONS website.

  11. National Accounts revisions policy

    National Accounts revision policy (27.8 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.

  12. Revisions

    Revisions Table 17R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 9 January 2014. The revisions to trade in goods from January 2013 reflect revised data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and other data suppliers, revised estimates of trading associated with VAT MTIC fraud, later survey data on trade prices and a re-assessment of seasonal factors.

    There are no revisions to trade in services.   

  13. Publication policy

    A list of the organisations given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin can be found on the ONS website.

  14. Accessing data

    Supplementary quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Classification of Product by Activity 08 ( UK Trade in Goods Analysed in Terms of Industries ) are also available.

    The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin are also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using the ONS Time Series Data website service. Users can download the complete statistical bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series.

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Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Katherine Kent +44 (0)1633 455829 UK Trade/Trade and Transfers trade.in.goods@ons.gsi.gov.uk
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