|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The deficit on trade in goods continues to be partly offset by an estimated surplus on trade in services.
The figures for exports of goods have been variable during 2012. This was particularly marked over the early summer and may reflect in part the changed pattern of public holidays in 2012. Imports of goods have shown less variability. However, because of these movements, the deficit on trade in goods has itself varied from month to month this year, with no clear pattern. However, taking the first ten months of 2012 together, the deficit has been running at an average of £8.9 billion a month. This is higher (in current prices) than in 2011 when it averaged £8.4 billion.
However, it is clearer that trade volumes have been rising over the past year, while prices have declined. Excluding oil and erratics, both the volumes of exports and imports of goods were 1.7% higher in the three months to October 2012 than a year earlier. Export prices (excluding oil and erratics) fell by 3.6% over this period, while import prices were 2.9% lower.
There has however been a shift in the pattern of the UK’s trade over this period. In volume terms (excluding oil and erratics) exports of goods to the rest of the European Union (EU) were 5.2% lower in the three months to October 2012 than a year earlier, while to the rest of the world they rose by 9.1%. By value (volume data for individual countries are not available) exports fell by more than 10% over the year to Belgium and Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Outside the EU, they fell by almost a quarter to Canada but rose by more than 5% over the year to China and the United States. Exports to South Korea rose by 65% in the same period.
In comparison, import volumes (excluding oil and erratics) rose from the EU faster over the year than from the rest of the world: at 2.7% against 0.3%. Within the EU, exports were more than 5% lower by value from the Irish Republic and Spain, but there were strong increases in the value of imports from the Netherlands and Sweden. From the rest of the world, imports from Canada, China, Japan, and Norway all fell appreciably over the year, while imports from South Korea and Switzerland rose sharply.
By commodity group, the prices of both exports and imports were lower in every group, in the latest three months compared with a year earlier. There was a drop of 6.2% in the price of exports of basic materials and falls of similar magnitude in the prices of both exports and imports of semi-manufactures.
Although (excluding erratic items) the volumes of exports and imports both rose by 1.7 % in the three months to October 2012 compared with a year earlier, the volume of semi-manufactured exports rose faster than the export of finished manufactures (2.1% against 1.1%). There was a more marked disparity for imports, where there was a rise in volumes of 3.5% for manufactured goods as a whole (and 6.2% for semi-manufactures) but a drop of 10.9% in the volume of imports of basic materials.
In October, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £9.5 billion; £1.1 billion lower than in September.
Total exports decreased by £0.3 billion (1.0%) to £24.4 billion and total imports rose by £0.8 billion (2.5%) to £34.0 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+187||-129|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+221||+155|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-34||+341|
In the three months ending October 2012, the deficit on trade in goods was £28.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £24.9 billion in the three months ending July 2012.
Total exports decreased by £1.9 billion (2.5%) to £73.8 billion and total imports rose by £1.3 billion (1.3%) to £101.9 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-1317||+481|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-133||-104|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+45||-79|
In October, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries rose by £0.5 billion to £5.0 billion.
Exports to the EU rose by £0.1 billion (1.0%) to £12.3 billion and imports from the EU rose by £0.6 billion (3.8%) to £17.3 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+15||+248|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-14||-39|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-63||-5|
In the three months ending October 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries rose by £1.4 billion to £14.6 billion, compared with a deficit of £13.2 billion in the three months ending July 2012.
Exports to the EU decreased by £0.5 billion (1.4%) to £37.0 billion and imports from the EU increased by £0.9 billion (1.7%) to £51.5 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||-273||-41|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+10||+8|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-28||-125|
In October, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries rose by £0.6 billion to £4.5 billion.
Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £0.4 billion (3.0%) to £12.1 billion and imports from non-EU countries rose by £0.2 billion (1.3%) to £16.7 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+172||-377|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+235||+194|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+29||+346|
In the three months ending October 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries rose by £1.8 billion to £13.5 billion, compared with the three months ending July 2012.
Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £1.3 billion (3.5%) to £36.9 billion and imports from non-EU countries rose by £0.4 billion (0.9%) to £50.3 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-1044||+522|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-143||-112|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+73||+46|
Within EU countries, exports to Spain increased by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to South Korea increased by £0.1 billion. Exports to the USA decreased by £0.6 billion and exports to Saudi Arabia decreased by £0.1 billion.
Within EU countries, imports from France rose by £0.2 billion and imports from the Netherlands rose by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Israel, Norway and Switzerland all rose by £0.2 billion; whereas imports from Taiwan and the USA rose by £0.1 billion.
Imports from Nigeria fell by £0.2 billion and imports from South Africa, South Korea and United Arab Emirates all fell by £0.1 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|October 2012 Value||1-Month Change||October 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 EU countries, exports to France increased by £0.3 billion and exports to Germany decreased by £0.4 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to South Korea fell by £0.5 billion and exports to Switzerland fell by £0.4 billion.
Within EU countries, imports from Belgium and Luxembourg rose by £0.4 billion and imports from the Netherlands rose by £0.3 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland increased by £0.5 billion and imports from Nigeria increased by £0.3 billion. Imports from Norway fell by £0.6 billion and imports from China fell by £0.5 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|October 2012 Value||3-Month Change||October 2012 Value||3-Month Change|
Between September and October 2012, the volume of exports decreased by 3.5% and the volume of imports rose by 2.9%. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||-2.6||+3.8|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||-4.3||+3.3|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-2.5||+10.2|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||-2.4||+1.7|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+12.5||+2.7|
In the three months ending October 2012, the volume of exports increased by 0.4% and the volume of imports rose by 1.2 %, compared with the three months ending July 2012. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+2.1||+3.3|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||+2.1||+2.6|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+1.2||+0.6|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||-1.3||+0.6|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-2.1||+0.0|
Figure 9: Volume of Exports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), August 2012 - October 2012 Compared with May 2012 - July 2012
Export prices (excluding oil and erratics) fell by 1.8% in the latest three months; import prices fell by 0.9% in the same period.
In October, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £1.1 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.4 billion in September. Oil exports rose by £0.2 billion to £3.1 billion and oil imports fell by £0.1 billion to £4.1 billion.
In the three months ending October 2012, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £4.2 billion, compared with a deficit of £2.4 billion in the three months ending July 2012. Oil exports fell by £1.3 billion to £9.3 billion and oil imports rose by £0.5 billion to £13.4 billion.
Note: Most components of Trade in Services are collected quarterly and the latest period for which reasonable quality estimates are available is the third quarter of 2012. In order to provide a more complete picture of trade, the latest available data has been extrapolated into October. In October, the UK’s estimated surplus on trade in services was £5.9 billion.
Exports in October 2012 were estimated to have been £15.7 billion and imports £9.8 billion.
In the three months ending October 2012, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £17.9 billion.
Total exports were £47.3 billion and total imports were £29.4 billion.
The UK Trade record information for October 2012 can be accessed at the ONS Website (40.5 Kb Excel sheet) .
This release conforms to the standard revisions policy for National Accounts. In this release, periods from January 2011 are open for revision.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) currently publishes a Statistical Bulletin each month giving the latest figures on overseas trade in goods and services and, around three working days later, the Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics (MRETS). A review has shown that MRETS now contains little that is not available with the Bulletin. The remaining gap will be closed in the next three months. This consultation document (55.3 Kb Pdf) seeks users’ views on the cessation of this separate publication when that occurs.
Reinstatement of Price Indices
For some months it was not possible to publish exports and imports price indices, due to system issues. They have been reinstated in this month's Bulletin. Because there has been a period when they were not published, there are no revisions figures for these series (table 14R, final columns).
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.
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 is available on nthe 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. © Crown copyright 2012.
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 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 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 2012.
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
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.
Composition of the data
Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments (Pink Book).
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.
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 (2009) 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, Statistics on Trade in Goods (GSS Methodological Series No. 36) (384.4 Kb Pdf) 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
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).
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.
|Value in latest period||Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later|
|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)||40,114||756||1,011|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||43,758||266||642|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-3,644||489||618|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from December 2006 (for October 2006) to November 2011 (for September 2011). Revisions 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) . It is available on the ONS website.
More information about revisions (181.7 Kb Pdf) material in this Statistical Bulletin can be found on the ONS website.
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 Stephen Curtis on 01633 456626 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 revision policy (67.8 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.
Revisions Table 14R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 9 November 2012. The revisions to trade in goods from January 2011 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.
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 (24.5 Kb Pdf) to the contents of this bulletin.
Supplementary commodity data for this Statistical Bulletin ( Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics (1.68 Mb Pdf) ); and quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Classification of Product by Activity 08 ( UK Trade in Goods Analysed in Terms of Industries (180.9 Kb Pdf) ) are also available free of charge as PDF files.
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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Copyright and reproduction
© Crown copyright 2012
Under the terms of the Open Government Licence and UK Government Licensing Framework, anyone wishing to use or re-use ONS material, whether commercially or privately, may do so freely without a specific application for a licence, subject to the conditions of the OGL and the Framework.
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Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444
Next publication: 9 January 2013
Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG
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|Stephen Curtis||+44 (0)1633 456626||UK Trade / Trade in Transfersfirstname.lastname@example.org|