|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The UK’s deficit in Trade in Goods and Services narrowed to £2.7 billion in March, down £0.2 billion from £2.9 billion in February.
The UK’s surplus in Trade in Services was estimated at £5.8 billion in March, up £0.2 billion compared with February. Exports of services rose by £0.2 billion (1.2 per cent) to £15.5 billion and imports of services were virtually unchanged at £9.6 billion (up by less than 0.1 per cent).
The UK’s deficit in Trade in Goods was £8.6 billion in March, unchanged compared with February. Exports of goods rose by £1.4 billion (5.8 per cent), from £24.9 billion in February to £26.4 billion in March. Imports of goods rose by £1.4 billion (4.2 per cent) from £33.5 billion in February to £34.9 billion in March. Exports of goods and imports of goods were at record levels in March.
The deficit in trade in goods with EU countries widened by £0.7 billion to £4.5 billion in March, compared with the deficit of £3.7 billion in February, as exports were virtually unchanged at £13.2 billion (up by 0.1 per cent), and imports rose by £0.8 billion (4.4 per cent) to £17.6 billion.
The deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries narrowed by £0.8 billion to £4.1 billion in March, compared with the deficit of £4.9 billion in February, as exports rose by £1.4 billion (12.1 per cent) to £13.2 billion, and imports rose by £0.7 billion (4.0 per cent) to £17.3 billion. Exports of goods to non-EU countries and imports of goods from non-EU countries were at record levels in March.
The increase in total exports of goods was driven by higher exports of chemicals (up £0.2 billion) to non-EU countries (particularly pharmaceuticals), including the US and China, and also to EU countries, specifically Germany; cars (up £0.2 billion), particularly to non-EU countries including the US and Russia, and also to EU countries including Germany; capital goods (up £0.2 billion), particularly to non-EU countries, and ships (up £0.2 billion) to non-EU countries.
The increase in total imports of goods was driven by higher imports of oil (up £0.7 billion), from EU countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, and non-EU countries including Norway, Russia, Algeria and Libya; chemicals (up £0.2 billion), from non-EU countries including the US, Canada and Israel and EU countries including Germany; food, drink & tobacco (up £0.2 billion), particularly from EU countries including the Netherlands, Germany, France and Poland; and cars (up £0.2 billion) from EU countries, particularly Germany and Belgium. This was offset by lower imports of consumer goods other than cars (down £0.2 billion), particularly from non-EU countries.
The volume of exports of goods (excluding oil and erratics) rose by 6.0 per cent, driven by a rise in export volumes of cars (up 13.7 per cent), consumer goods other than cars (up 7.1 per cent), and chemicals (up 6.5 per cent). This was offset by a decrease in export volumes of basic materials (down 1.0 per cent). Export prices of goods rose by 1.7 per cent, driven by oil prices.
The volume of imports of goods (excluding oil and erratics) rose by 2.4 per cent, driven by an increase in import volumes of cars (up 9.5 per cent), chemicals (up 8.1 per cent), food, drink & tobacco (up 6.1 per cent) and intermediate goods (up 2.9 per cent). This was offset by lower import volumes of basic materials (down 10.0 per cent), and consumer goods other than cars (down 3.8 per cent). Import prices of goods rose by 1.2 per cent, driven by oil prices.
Care should be taken when using the month-on-month growth rates due to their volatility.
In March, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £8.6 billion unchanged compared with the deficit in February.
Total exports rose by £1.4 billion (5.8 per cent) to £26.4 billion, and total imports rose by £1.4 billion (4.2 per cent) to £34.9 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+5||+693|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+108||-228|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+117||-39|
|Food, Drink and Tobacco||:||+231|
In the first quarter of 2012 the deficit on trade in goods increased by £0.8 billion to £25.0 billion, compared with the deficit of £24.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Total exports remained unchanged (0.0 per cent) at £77.1 billion, but total imports rose by £0.8 billion (0.8 per cent) to £102.1 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+1103||-17|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-254||+422|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-98||+1|
In March, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £0.7 billion to £4.5 billion, compared with the deficit of £3.7 billion in February.
EU exports rose by less than £0.1 billion (0.1 per cent) to £13.2 billion, and EU imports rose by £0.8 billion (4.4 per cent) to £17.6 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||-179||+379|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+9||+100|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+7||-8|
|Food, Drink and Tobacco||:||+208|
In the first quarter of 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £1.2 billion to £12.3 billion, compared with the deficit of £11.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
EU exports fell by £0.7 billion (1.7 per cent) to £39.3 billion, but EU imports rose by £0.5 billion (1.0 per cent) to £51.6 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||+693||-130|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-64||-43|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-190||+42|
|Fuels other than oils||-405||:|
In March, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.8 billion to £4.1 billion, compared with the deficit of £4.9 billion in February.
Non-EU exports rose by £1.4 billion (12.1 per cent) to £13.2 billion, and non-EU imports rose by £0.7 billion (4.0 per cent) to £17.3 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see background notes on trade in oil)||+184||+314|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+99||-328|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+110||-31|
In the first quarter of 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.4 billion to £12.7 billion, compared with the deficit of £13.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Non-EU exports rose by £0.7 billion (2.0 per cent) to £37.8 billion and non-EU imports rose by £0.3 billion (0.6 per cent) to £50.5 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on trade in oil)||+410||+113|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-190||+465|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+92||-41|
|Silver (see background notes - Interpreting the data)||-432||:|
Within the EU countries, exports to Germany rose by £0.3 billion and exports to Belgium/Luxembourg and Denmark rose by £0.1 billion. Exports to the Netherlands fell by £0.5 billion. Among Non-EU countries, exports to the USA rose by £0.6 billion and exports to Russia, South Korea and India rose by £0.1 billion.
Within the EU countries, imports from Germany rose by £0.3 billion, imports from France and Belgium/Luxembourg rose by £0.2 billion and imports from Poland rose by £0.1 billion. Among Non-EU countries, imports from Israel and Norway rose by £0.2 billion and imports from Saudi Arabia rose by £0.1 billion. Imports from Nigeria fell by £0.3 billion, imports from China fell by £0.2 billion and imports from Singapore fell by £0.1 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Mar 2012 Value||1 month Change||Mar 2012 Value||1 month Change|
Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2011 (see Monthly Review of External Trade table G1).
Within the EU countries, exports to the Netherlands rose by £0.6 billion, but exports to France fell by £0.4 billion. Among Non-EU countries, exports to India fell by £0.4 billion.
Within the EU countries, there were no import movements in excess of £0.3 billion. Among Non-EU countries, imports from Russia rose by £0.6 billion and imports from Nigeria rose by £0.4 billion, but imports from Israel and China fell by £0.4 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Q1 Value||Qtrly Change||Q1 Value||Qtrly Change|
In March, the volume of exports rose by 6.0 per cent and the volume of imports rose by 2.4 per cent, compared with February. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+6.4||+6.1|
|Semi manufactured goods; of which||+7.0||+4.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+5.7||-2.2|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+6.9||+1.0|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+7.1||-3.8|
In the first quarter of 2012, the volume of exports fell by 0.2 per cent, but the volume of imports rose by 0.8 per cent, compared with the fourth quarter of 2011. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||-1.5||-2.0|
|Semi manufactured goods; of which||+0.7||-0.7|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+1.1||-2.2|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+0.0||+2.7|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-5.0||+3.1|
In March, export prices rose by 1.7 per cent and import prices rose by 1.2 per cent, compared with February. This led to an increase in the terms of trade. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices remained unchanged but import prices rose by 0.4 per cent.
In the first quarter of 2012, export prices rose by 1.6 per cent and import prices rose by 2.1 per cent. This led to a decrease in the terms of trade. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices rose by 0.3 per cent and import prices rose by 0.8 per cent.
In March, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £1.3 billion, compared with a deficit of £0.6 billion in February. Oil exports remained unchanged at £3.5 billion, but oil imports rose by £0.7 billion to £4.8 billion.
In the first quarter of 2012, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £2.8 billion, compared with the deficit of £3.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. Oil exports rose by £1.1 billion to £10.6 billion and oil imports remained unchanged at £13.4 billion.
In March, the UK’s estimated surplus on trade in services rose to £5.8 billion, compared with the estimated surplus of £5.6 billion in February.
Exports rose by £0.2 billion (1.2 per cent) to £15.5 billion, and imports rose by less than £0.1 billion (0.1 per cent) to £9.6 billion.
In the first quarter of 2012 the estimated surplus on trade in services decreased by less than £0.1 billion to £17.1 billion, compared with the surplus of £17.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Total exports fell by £0.5 billion (1.0 per cent) to £45.9 billion and total imports fell by £0.4 billion (1.4 per cent) to £28.8 billion.
This release conforms to the standard revisions policy for National Accounts. In this release, periods from January 2012 are open for revision.
Change of publication date for UK Trade April 2012
ONS has recently announced via the Publication Hub that the UK trade April 2012 statistical bulletin, initially scheduled for release on Tuesday 12 June, has been moved to Friday 15 June.
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.
An article outlining the ONS policy on special events can be found on the ONS website.
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.
Understanding the data
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. 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 and 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: Pink Book.
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.
.. Not applicable
- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.
A paper entitled Overseas Trade Statistics Methodology describing the basis on which trade in goods statistics are compiled is available on the UK Trade Info website.
A further paper Statistics on Trade in Goods (384.4 Kb Pdf) (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.
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. More details of the data sources, estimation methodology and reliability of the monthly estimates of trade in services were set out in Economic Trends (January 1996 and September 1997).
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 (181.7 Kb Pdf) and what is being done to improve the first published estimates was published on 9 May 2005 on the ONS website.
|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)||41,816||799||1,054|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||44,555||475||832|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-2,739||331||597|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from May 2005 (for March 2005) to February 2011 (for December 2010). Spreadsheets giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available on the ONS website
An article analysing past revisions to quarterly balance of payments current account data was published in the May 2007 edition of Economic & Labour Market Review (340.2 Kb Pdf) .
More information about revisions material in this Statistical Bulletin (181.7 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.
Coherence - EU enlargement and country coverage: Two more countries joined the EU from 1 January 2007. These countries were Bulgaria and Romania. In addition, the coverage of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) countries was extended to include Slovenia. In order to enable users to make long-run comparisons, data for the new definition EU and non-EU was produced from January 1998 onwards for value, and from January 1999 onwards for volume and price indices. At the same time data for the old definitions were no longer maintained. There are additional series for country groupings on the old definitions.
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 from the Statbase® service may be less reliable than the current price data. Please consult Marilyn Thomas on +44 (0)1633 455708 if you are considering using them.
Data have been combined for the United States and Puerto Rico, and for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and 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.
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.
National Accounts revisions policy
National Accounts revisions policy (27.8 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.
Table 14R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 12 April 2012. The revisions to trade in goods from January 2012 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.
Revisions to trade in services data, from January 2012 onwards, bring the monthly data in-line with the Preliminary estimate of GDP, Q1 2012 Statistical Bulletin published on 15 April 2012.
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the organisations given pre-publication access (24.8 Kb Pdf) to the contents of this bulletin.
Supplementary commodity data for this Statistical Bulletin (Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics); and quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Standard Industrial Classification (UK Trade in Goods Analysed in Terms of Industries) are also available free of charge as PDF files on the ONS website.
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. The Time Series Data service can be accessed on the ONS website.
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Copyright and reproduction
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Next publication: 15 June 2012
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|Marilyn Thomas||+44 (0)1633 455708||Trade in Transfers / Office for National Statisticsfirstname.lastname@example.org|