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Statistical bulletin: UK Trade, December 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 07 February 2013 Download PDF

December 2012

  • UK Trade shows the value of imports and exports and is a key contributor to the overall economic growth of the UK.
  • Seasonally adjusted, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £3.2 billion in December, compared with a deficit of £3.6 billion in November. However, despite erratic changes in the deficit over the last 12 months, the level across that period has remained largely flat.
  • There was a deficit of £8.9 billion on goods, partly offset by an estimated surplus of £5.7 billion on services.
  • Excluding oil and erratic items, the deficit on trade in goods was £22.2 billion in quarter four. This was £0.2 billion more than the preceding quarter and £0.6 billion higher than quarter four 2011.
  • Export prices (excluding oil and erratics) rose by 0.3% in the latest quarter; import prices rose by 0.2% in the same period.

Key Figures

Table 1: Balance of UK Trade in Goods and Services

 
Balance of trade in goods Balance of trade in services Total trade balance
EU Non-EU World
2011 Dec -3.8 -3.7 -7.5 6.1 -1.4
2012 Oct -4.7 -4.5 -9.1 5.8 -3.4
Nov -4.7 -4.6 -9.3 5.7 -3.6
  Dec -4.7 -4.2 -8.9 5.7 -3.2

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Figure 1: Balance of UK Trade

Balance of UK Trade, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Figure 2: Balance of UK Trade in Goods

Balance of UK Trade in Goods, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Summary

Overseas trade in goods fluctuated unusually widely from month to month during spring and early summer this year.  They have since settled down.  Even so, figures for any one month provide scant evidence of trends.  It is necessary to add three or more months together for both exports and imports before the trend component of the time series exceeds the random component.  Changes in the balance (exports minus imports) are of course even more variable.  Accordingly, this summary concentrates on looking at 2012 as a whole.

The availability of figures for 2012 as a whole provides an opportunity to look structurally at some of the changes that have happened, particularly to trade in goods.

Over the 10 years 2002-2012, the value of Britain’s exports grew by 60%, an average of 4.8% a year. However, the value of imports rose rather faster, by 74%, or 5.7% per annum.  Some of this difference was due to oil.  Excluding oil, the rate of growth of exports was little changed but imports less oil grew at an average rate of 5.1%, much closer to the rise in exports.

The balance of trade in goods, which had been in deficit (that is, imports exceeded exports) by £47 billion in 2002 was in deficit by £107 billion last year.

The volume of the UK’s trade in goods rose by around 2.0% per annum between 2002 and 2012.  The growth of imports was similar, at 2.3% per annum, whether or not oil imports were included.  However, oil exports fell during the period (the amount of crude oil exported reduced from 79 million tonnes in 2002 to 38 million tonnes in 2012).  The volume of goods exports including oil rose by 2.0% per annum over the period; but excluding oil the increase was 2.2%. 

Although as a whole the rate of growth of imports was greater than the rate of growth of exports, this was not invariably true.  For example, exports of metal ores increased by value over the 10 years appreciably faster than imports (though the level in 2012 was lower than the level in 2011).  This trade was in surplus (as it has been since 2009) rather than in deficit as it was in 2002.

In 2002, there was a deficit in trade in cars of around £7.5 billion. However, the value of exports of cars from the UK more than doubled over the 10 years to 2012, while the value of imports grew much more modestly so in 2012 this trade was close to break-even (that is, the levels of exports and imports were virtually the same).

By area, there has been a shift in the pattern of the UK’s trade over the past 10 years.  In 2002, around 62% of the UK’s exports went to the rest of the EU (as currently defined, that is to the 26 other member states).  59% of our imports came from the EU.  In 2012, those proportions had been reduced to 51% and 50% respectively.   The values of exports to Italy and imports from Ireland were both lower in cash terms in 2012 than they had been in 2002.  Trade with France also grew modestly over this period; at around one-quarter the rate of growth of trade with Germany, which became our largest trading partner (taking exports and imports together) in 2012, supplanting the United States.

The economic analysis below gives some of the reasons behind this shift, in terms of the increased importance of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China).  Exports to China were, in cash terms, seven times the size in 2012 than they had been in 2002.  Outside the BRICs, trade with Norway, Switzerland and South Korea also rose faster than average over the ten years.

Total exports of services are estimated to have fallen in value by 3.4% in 2012, while there was a slight rise in imports.  This was, however, against the trend of the last 10 years.  Over the period 2002-2012, export of services rose in value by 7.1% per annum on average while imports increased by 4.5% a year. The surplus on trade in services is estimated to have risen from £18 billion to £69 billion over this period.

Within services, both exports and imports of royalties and personal services were relatively flat over the 10 years (the value of imports of personal services was lower in 2012 than it had been in 2002).  The import of insurance services was almost unchanged in 2012 from its 2002 value, but the export of those services was at more than twice the level in 2012 than it had been in 2002. Otherwise, trade (both exports and imports) in communications and computer services rose sharply over the period, while construction became much more international, both exports and imports of construction services rising seven-fold.  Trade in financial services – which account for one-quarter of our exports of services but for less than one-tenth of imports  - both rose on average by 8% per annum, though this increase was concentrated in the period 2002-2008 and for both exports and imports there has been a falling-back since then.

 

Economic Context

The last quarter of 2012 saw another dip in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), (falling 0.3%), reflecting the flat lining UK economy and, more specifically, the poor performance of oil companies. As of late, many rigs in the North Sea have undergone repair and maintenance, greatly impeding production; oil gas and extraction fell by 22.5% when comparing September to November to the same period a year ago. This has also begun to affect UK trade in oil, as can be seen from Figure 3. Oil exports have fallen for the second consecutive month when compared with the same period a year ago. With additional pipeline repairs and closures forecast for the start of 2013, it can be supposed that output and trade may weaken further still.

Figure 3: UK Trade in Oil

UK Trade in Oil

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Recent trade data for the UK has also highlighted exports to non-EU countries surpassed exports to EU countries. However, taking a closer look we can also assess the contribution of developing countries towards this, namely the so-called ‘BRICS’ – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Figure 4 outlines the increase in exports to these countries since the turn of the millennium. Paving the way is China, the most prolific economy, which boasts high growth rates and an ever-growing middle class with disposable income to spend on British luxury goods. However, the other countries have seen similar trends in their growth rates and demographic makeup; collectively, UK exports to them have increased by 37.6% since the start of 2008.

Figure 4: UK Exports to the BRICS Countries

Exports to the BRICS Countries, £millions

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Imports tell a different story. As can be seen from Figure 5, Chinese imports far outweigh any of the other BRICS. In main this is because, unlike the other economies, China has orientated its manufacturing sector to produce goods Western countries like the UK require. These goods include electrical products, textiles, foodstuffs – the list goes on – that China manages to produce at a much lower cost than any other country due to their relatively cheap labour costs and their considerable production infrastructure.

Figure 5: UK Imports to the BRICS Countries

Imports to the BRICS Countries, £millions

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Value of UK Trade in Goods

In December, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £8.9 billion; £0.4 billion lower than in November.

Total exports increased by £0.7 billion (3.0%) to £25.1 billion and total imports rose by £0.4 billion (1.1%) to £34.0 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 2: Change in Key Commodity Value, December 2012 Compared with November 2012

              Exports (£m)   Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +435 +695
Cars +182 +128
Consumer goods other than cars +41 -31
Intermediate goods -53 -86
Capital goods -43 -130
Chemicals -440 -327
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals  +433 +382

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In quarter four 2012, the deficit on trade in goods was £27.3 billion, compared with a deficit of £26.1 billion in quarter three 2012.

Total exports decreased by £1.5 billion (2.0%) to £74.1 billion and total imports decreased by £0.2 billion (0.2%) to £101.4 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 3: Change in Key Commodity Value, Quarter 4 2012 Compared with Quarter 3 2012

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') -1290 +125
Cars +241 +214
Consumer goods other than cars +117 -593
Intermediate goods -54 -462
Capital goods -190 +69
Chemicals -141 -403
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +318 +850

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Figure 6: Value of UK Trade in Goods

Value of UK Trade in Goods, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Figure 7: Value of UK Trade in Goods Excluding Oil

Value of UK Trade in Goods Excluding Oil, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Trade in Goods - EU Analysis

In December, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries remained unchanged at £4.7 billion.

Exports to the EU fell by £0.6 billion (4.8%) to £12.2 billion and imports from the EU fell by £0.6 billion (3.5%) to £16.9 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 4: Change in Key Commodity Value (EU), December 2012 Compared with November 2012

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') -220 -85
Cars +106 +108
Consumer goods other than cars +5 +78
Intermediate goods +4 -61
Capital goods -111 -181
Chemicals -306 -255
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals -45 +6

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In quarter four 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries rose by over £0.1 billion to £14.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £13.8 billion in quarter three 2012.

Exports to the EU decreased by less than £0.1 billion (0.1%) to £37.5 billion and imports from the EU increased by £0.1 billion (0.2%) to £51.5 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 5: Change in Key Commodity Value (EU), Quarter 4 2012 Compared with Quarter 3 2012

              Exports (£m)   Imports (£m)
Oil (see section 'trade in oil') -620 +94
Cars +132 +157
Consumer goods other than cars -11 -22
Intermediate goods -77 -282
Capital goods +56 +360
Chemicals +737 -276
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals  -166 -173
 

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Figure 8: Balance of Trade in Goods, EU Countries

 Balance of Trade in Goods, EU Countries, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Trade in Goods - Non-EU Analysis

In December, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.4 billion to £4.2 billion.

Exports to non-EU countries increased by £1.4 billion (11.7%) to £12.9 billion and imports from non-EU countries increased by £1.0 billion (6.0%) to £17.2 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 6: Change in Key Commodity Value (Non-EU), December 2012 Compared with November 2012

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') +655 +779
Cars +76 +20
Consumer goods other than cars +36 -109
Intermediate goods -57 -25
Capital goods +68 +51
Chemicals -134 -72
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +478 +376

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In quarter four 2012, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries increased by £1.1 billion to £13.3 billion, compared with quarter three 2012.

Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £1.5 billion (3.9%) to £36.6 billion and imports from non-EU countries decreased by £0.3 billion (0.7%) to £49.9 billion. At the commodity level:

Table 7: Change in Key Commodity Value (Non-EU), Quarter 4 2012 Compared with Quarter 3 2012

Exports (£m) Imports (£m)
Oil (see section on 'trade in oil') -670 +31
Cars +109 +57
Consumer goods other than cars +128 -571
Intermediate goods +23 -180
Capital goods -246 -291
Chemicals -878 -127
Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +484 +1023

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Figure 9: Balance of Trade in Goods, non-EU countries

Balance of Trade in Goods, non- EU Countries, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Trade in Goods - One Month Geographical Analysis

December 2012 Compared with November 2012

Within EU countries, exports to France increased by £0.1 billion. Exports to Germany decreased by £0.4 billion and exports to the Netherlands and Sweden decreased by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to Switzerland increased by £0.5 billion, exports to South Korea increased by £0.4 billion and exports to the USA increased by £0.3 billion.

Within EU countries, imports from France, Germany and the Netherlands fell by £0.2 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland rose by £0.7 billion, imports from Norway rose by £0.2 billion and imports from Kuwait and India each rose by £0.1 billion. Imports from Nigeria and Taiwan fell by £0.2 billion and imports from Japan and Singapore fell by £0.1 billion.

Table 8: Change in Monthly Trade with Significant Partner Countries, December 2012 Compared with November 2012

    Exports (£m)       Imports (£m)
    December  2012 Value 1-Month Change     December  2012 Value 1-Month Change
       
1 USA           3286 +265 1 Germany 4320 -174
2 Germany 2615 -421 2 Netherlands 2748 -178
3 Netherlands 1892 -109 3 China 2453 -50
4 France 1850 +130 4 USA 2435 30
5 Irish Republic 1409 -32 5 Norway 1752 157
6 Belgium-Luxembourg 1202 +31 6 France 1742 -187
7 China 927 +84 7 Belgium-Luxembourg 1579 -30
8 Spain 707 +5 8 Italy 1143 -15
9 Italy 649 -21 9 Spain 1016 59
10 Sweden 441 -108 10 Irish Republic 968 -29
1 Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2011 (see Monthly Review of External Trade table G1).

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Figure 10: Significant Partner Countries, 1 Month Balances, December 2012

Significant Partner Countries, 1 Month Balances, December 2012, Seasonally adjusted, £ million

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Trade in goods – Quarterly Geographical Analysis

Quarter Four 2012 Compared with Quarter Three 2012

Within EU countries, exports to Germany increased by £0.7 billion and exports to the Netherlands decreased by £0.5 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to Switzerland increased by £0.6 billion and exports to the USA fell by £1.0 billion.

Within EU countries, imports from the Netherlands rose by £0.6 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland increased by £1.3 billion and Norway increased by £0.4 billion. Imports from China fell by £0.7 billion.

Table 9: Change in Quarterly Trade with Significant Partner Countries, Quarter 4 2012 Compared with Quarter 3 2012

    Exports (£m)       Imports (£m)
    December 2012 Value Quarter Change     December 2012 Value Quarter Change
       
1 USA           9541 -964 1 Germany 13163 -155
2 Germany 8312 +690 2 Netherlands 8389 +561
3 Netherlands 5892 -489 3 USA 7529 -225
4 France 5335 -205 4 China 7458 -652
5 Irish Republic 4301 -101 5 France 5592 -11
6 Belgium-Luxembourg 3540 -85 6 Norway 4962 +389
7 China 2680 -8 7 Belgium-Luxembourg 4789 127
8 Spain 2183 +73 8 Italy 3493 -167
9 Italy 2009 +69 9 Spain 2944 +47
10 Sweden 1475 +29 10 Irish Republic 2908 -122
1 Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2011 (see Monthly Review of External Trade table G1).

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Figure 11: Significant Partner Countries, Quarterly Balances, Quarter 4 2012

Significant Partner Countries, Quarterly balances, Quarter 4 2012, £ billion

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Volume of Total Trade in Goods, Excluding Oil and Erratics

Between November and December 2012, the volume of exports increased by 2.5% and the volume of imports decreased by 1.8%. At the commodity level:

Table 10: Change in Key Commodity Volume, December 2012 Compared with November 2012

        Exports Imports
% change % change
Food, beverages and tobacco +3.5 -1.0
Basic materials +2.9 -6.0
Semi-manufactured goods; of which +0.9 -2.6
  Chemicals -9.6 -12.7
  Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +21.9 +11.6
Finished manufactured goods; of which +4.0 -0.8
  Cars +15.1 +6.5
  Consumer goods other than cars +4.6 -0.9
  Intermediate goods 0.0 -2.4
  Capital goods +1.8 -3.2

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In quarter four 2012, the volume of exports decreased by 0.8% and the volume of imports fell by 0.5%, compared with the previous quarter. At the commodity level:

Table 11: Change in Key Commodity Volume, Quarter 4 2012 Compared with Quarter 3 2012

        Exports Imports
% change % change
Food, beverages and tobacco -0.3 -0.6
Basic materials -3.1 +3.6
Semi-manufactured goods; of which 0.0 +0.6
  Chemicals -1.8 -5.2
  Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals +4.8 +9.8
Finished manufactured goods; of which -0.5 -1.1
  Cars +5.0 +2.1
  Consumer goods other than cars +2.3 -4.1
  Intermediate goods -0.6 -2.4
  Capital goods -5.2 +1.1

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Figure 12: Volume of Exports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2012 compared with Quarter 3 2012

Volume of Exports of Goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2012 compared with Quarter 3 2012

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Figure 13: Volume of Imports of goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2012 compared with Quarter 3 2012

Volume of Imports of goods (Finished Manufactures), Quarter 4 2012 compared with Quarter 3 2012

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

In December, export prices were unchanged and import prices fell by 0.1%, compared with November. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices rose by 0.1% and import prices fell by 0.1%.

In quarter four 2012, export prices rose by 0.3% and import prices also rose by 0.3%. This led to no change in the terms of trade. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices rose by 0.3% and import prices rose by 0.2%.

Trade in Oil

In December, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £2.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.7 billion in November. Oil exports rose by £0.4 billion to £3.1 billion and oil imports rose by £0.7 billion to £5.0 billion.

In quarter four 2012, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £4.8 billion, compared with a deficit of £3.4 billion in quarter three 2012. Oil exports fell by £1.3 billion to £8.8 billion and oil imports rose by £0.1 billion to £13.6 billion.

Figure 14: Balance on Trade in Oil

Balance on Trade in Oil, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Trade in Services

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 December.

In December, the UK's estimated surplus on trade in services was £5.7 billion.

Exports in December 2012 were estimated to have been £15.5 billion and imports £9.9 billion.

In quarter four 2012, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £17.2 billion.

Total exports were £46.6 billion and total imports were £29.5 billion.

Figure 15: Value of UK Trade in Services

Value of UK Trade in Services, £ billion, Seasonally adjusted

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Records Sheet

The UK Trade record information for December 2012 (40.5 Kb Excel sheet) can be accessed at the ONS Website.

Background notes

  1. What's New?

    Revisions

    This release conforms to the standard revisions policy for National Accounts. In this release, periods from January 2012 are open for revision.

    Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics (MRETS) Consultation

    The MRETS consultation (55.3 Kb Pdf) is now complete. The only respondent to the consultation supported the decision to discontinue the MRETS publication on the basis that the data contained within MRETS will be available as part of the monthly UK Trade release. In light of this response, the decision has been made to discontinue the MRETS publication as of the December 2012 release.

    Those series previously exclusive to MRETS (including the geographical breakdown published in tables G1 and G2) will now be incorporated in the monthly UK Trade statistical bulletin and the associated online time series. 

  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.

  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 2013.

  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 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

    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 (Pink Book) .

    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 (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 (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. 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 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 2012

    £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) 40679 756 1011
    Total trade imports (IKBI) 43880 266 642
    Total trade balance (IKBJ) -3201 489 618

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    The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from February 2007 (for December 2007) to January 2012 (for November 2011). 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. 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 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.

  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 (41.7 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website.

  12. Revisions

    Revisions Table 14R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 9 January 2013. 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.

  13. Publication policy

    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 (34 Kb Pdf) to the contents of this bulletin.

  14. Accessing data

    Supplementary commodity data for this Statistical Bulletin ( Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics (425.8 Kb 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  (397.6 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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  18. Next publication:  12 March 2013

    Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG

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    Email trade.in.goods@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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  19. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Stephen Curtis +44 (0)1633 456626 UK Trade / Trade and Transfers trade.in.goods@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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