|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The deficit on trade in goods fell sharply in January, to £8.2 billion. This was due to an unusually low figure for the balance of trade in oil, with exports up by around £0.3 billion on the previous month and imports down very sharply by more than £1 billion. Anecdotal evidence indicates a significant fall in imports from Norway while imports from Canada and Azerbaijan fell to zero in January. It should be noted that monthly trade in oil can be volatile. In January, both export and import prices rose by 1.4%.This may reflect the depreciation of sterling against major currencies from the beginning of this year.
Month on month trade figures are volatile. It is not easy to discern trends in figures for a single month. For that purpose it is necessary to look at data over rather longer periods. In the latest three months, trade in goods was in deficit by £26.0 billion, £2.1 billion less than in the preceding three months, but £1.1 billion higher than a year earlier. Exports to the EU in value fell by 4.9% between the latest three months and the same three months a year earlier, while to the rest of the world they were 0.8% lower. This was, however a period in which trade prices have generally fallen. In terms of volume, exports to the rest of the EU were 2.9% lower, while exports to the rest of the world increased by 2.2% over this period. This gap is a continuation of a rather longer-term trend. Since the 2009 base year for these figures, the volume of exports to the rest of the EU has risen by around 5%, while to the rest of the world the increase has been over 30%.
By EU country, exports to Germany by value held up better than exports to other member states, being virtually unchanged in the latest three months compared with the same period a year earlier. In contrast, exports to Belgium and Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden each fell by more than 5% over this period. Imports from Ireland continue to fall and in the latest three months were 19% lower than a year earlier. Imports from the Netherlands rose by 14% over this period, so that the trade deficit with the Netherlands was more than twice as great in the latest three months as a year earlier.
Outside the EU, exports to China and South Korea rose appreciably over the year, but exports to Canada and the United States both fell.
By commodity, exports of food beverages and tobacco, basic materials and oil have been more subdued than exports of manufactures. By value, manufacturing exports were 0.4% lower in the latest three months than a year earlier, while exports of food, beverages and tobacco fell by 2.6% over this period; basic materials by 13.3%; and fuels by 11.5%.
This Bulletin also reports figures of trade in services. The balance of trade is estimated to have changed little in January (at a surplus of under £6 billion), though it is at a lower level than in mid-2011. However, the information on trade in services is mainly obtained from quarterly surveys. That means that the figures for any month contain an element of estimation. The data for the latest month, however, are particularly uncertain since not all the quarterly information for that period is yet in, and some of the figures have to be based on projections at this stage.
According to the Second Estimate of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) published in February, GDP in the fourth quarter of 2012 contracted by 0.3% quarter-on-quarter. The UK economy grew by 0.2% overall during 2012.
Despite the employment rate increasing for the seventh successive quarter reaching 71.5%, consumer purchasing power has still been eroded. Inflation has generally increased faster than wages since early 2008. This decrease in real wages is likely to have weakened demand in the economy, reflected in household final consumption expenditure which grew by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Additionally, the repair of oil rigs in the North Sea seems to have affected oil output and consequently UK trade in oil. Between 1998 and 2004 the UK was a net exporter of oil. However, since 2004, the UK has been a net importer of oil. This shift has become progressively more prominent since 2009. This may partly be due to the disrepair of oil rigs, ageing equipment and machinery, and the increasing cost associated with extracting oil.
The latest trade data shows a widening of the UK’s trade deficit with EU countries and a narrowing of the trade deficit with Non-EU countries. From the EU, the countries which fared worst during the 2008 recession include Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIIGS). Figure 4 shows that UK exports to Ireland outweigh exports to any of the other countries, particularly to Portugal and Greece, where exports have been relatively modest. Ireland is well placed for cross-border trade and the main exports to Ireland include food and drink and clothing, fashion and footwear.
Imports data to the UK is more volatile than the exports data. Figure 5 shows large variations in the value of imports from Ireland and Spain. Italy’s main exports to the UK are machinery, textiles, motor vehicles, chemicals and food. Ireland’s exports to the UK include computers and IT, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and energy. Imports are significantly less from both Greece and Portugal, relative to the other countries. On the whole, in 2012 the UK had a combined trade deficit of £4.7 billion with Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. This consisted of £5.5 billion combined trade surplus with Ireland and Greece and a £10.2 billion combined trade deficit with Spain, Italy and Portugal.
In January 2013, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £8.2 billion; £0.5 billion lower than in December.
Total exports decreased by £0.9 billion (3.5%) to £24.4 billion and total imports fell by £1.4 billion (4.2%) to £32.6 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+314||-1153|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-200||+152|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-461||-469|
In the three months ending January 2013, the deficit on trade in goods was £26.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £28.2 billion in the three months ending October 2012.
Total exports increased by £0.3 billion (0.4%) to £74.3 billion and total imports decreased by £1.9 billion (1.8%) to £100.4 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-137||-389|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+10||-419|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+454||+246|
In January 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries rose by £0.3 billion to £4.9 billion.
Exports to the EU fell by £0.4 billion (3.2%) to £12.0 billion and imports from the EU fell by less than £0.1 billion (0.3%) to £16.9 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+165||+119|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-51||-60|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+10||-28|
In the three months ending January 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries fell by £0.5 billion to £14.0 billion, compared with a deficit of £14.5 billion in the three months ending October 2012.
Exports to the EU increased by £0.2 billion (0.4%) to £37.3 billion and imports from the EU decreased by £0.3 billion (0.6%) to £51.4 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||+66||-52|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-100||+57|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-87||-190|
In January 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.9 billion to £3.3 billion.
Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £0.5 billion (3.8%) to £12.5 billion and imports from non-EU countries decreased by £1.4 billion (8.1%) to £15.7 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+149||-1272|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-149||+212|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-471||-441|
In the three months ending January 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £1.7 billion to £12.0 billion, compared with the three months ending October 2012.
Exports to non-EU countries increased by £0.1 billion (0.3%) to £37.0 billion and imports from non-EU countries decreased by £1.6 billion (3.1%) to £49.0 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-203||-337|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+110||-476|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+541||+436|
Within EU countries, exports to both France and Germany decreased by £0.2 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to the USA increased by £0.2 billion. Exports to Switzerland decreased by £0.6 billion and exports to South Korea decreased by £0.1 billion.
Within EU countries, there were no import movements in excess of £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Singapore increased by £0.2 billion and imports from Saudi Arabia increased by £0.1 billion. Imports from Switzerland decreased by £1.1 billion and imports from India and Norway decreased by £0.2 billion
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|January 2013||1-month||January 2013||1-month|
|1 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 Germany increased by £0.4 billion and exports to the Netherlands decreased by £0.3 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to Switzerland increased by £1.0 billion and exports to South Korea increased by £0.4 billion. Exports to the USA decreased by £0.5 billion.
Within EU countries, imports from the Netherlands increased by £0.3 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland increased by £0.5 billion. Imports from the USA decreased by £0.6 billion, imports from Israel decreased by £0.4 billion and imports from China decreased by £0.3 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|January 2013 Value||3-Monthly Change||January 2013 Value||3-Monthly Change|
|1 Significant trading partners defined as top 10 export markets & import sources 2012 (see attached table 14).|
Between December 2012 and January 2013, the volume of exports decreased by 6.9% and the volume of imports decreased by 1.4%. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||-7.6||+3.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||-8.6||-2.7|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-21.1||-14.3|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||-6.8||-1.7|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-11.6||+3.7|
In the three months ending January 2013, the volume of exports was unchanged and the volume of imports fell by 2.0%, compared with the three months ending October 2012. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||-0.3||-2.5|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||+0.6||-4.8|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+6.1||+2.4|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+0.3||-1.7|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+0.5||-3.2|
In January 2013, export prices and import prices both rose by 1.4% compared with December 2012. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices rose by 1.0% and import prices rose by 1.2%.
In the three months ending January 2013, export prices rose by 0.4% and import prices rose by 0.2%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices rose by 0.8% and import prices rose by 0.5%.
In January 2013, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £0.4 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.9 billion in December. Oil exports rose by £0.3 billion to £3.4 billion and oil imports fell by £1.2 billion to £3.8 billion. It should be noted that monthly trade in oil can be volatile.
In the three months ending January 2013, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £3.8 billion, compared with a deficit of £4.1 billion in the three months ending October 2012. Oil exports fell by £0.1 billion to £9.3 billion and oil imports fell by £0.4 billion to £13.1 billion.
Note: Most components of Trade in Services are collected quarterly and the latest period for which reasonable quality estimates are available is the fourth quarter of 2012. In order to provide a more complete picture of trade, the latest available data has been extrapolated into January 2013.
In January 2013, the UK's estimated surplus on trade in services was £5.8 billion.
Exports in January 2013 were estimated to have been £15.4 billion and imports £9.6 billion.
In the three months ending January 2013, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £17.8 billion.
Total exports were £46.3 billion and total imports were £28.6 billion.
The UK Trade record information for January 2013 (40.5 Kb Excel sheet) can be accessed at the ONS Website.
This release conforms to the standard revisions policy for National Accounts. In this release, periods from January 2011 are open for revision.
Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics (MRETS) Consultation
The MRETS consultation (107.5 Kb Word document) 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 was 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 (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.
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.
|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)||39817||756||1 011|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||42179||266||642|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-2362||489||618|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from March 2008 (for January 2008) to February 2012 (for December 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.
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
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 (27.8 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 7 February 2013. 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 (34 Kb Pdf)
to the contents of this bulletin.
Supplementary 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.
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.
Follow ONS on Twitter and receive up to date information about our statistical releases.
Like ONS on Facebook to receive our updates in your newsfeed and to post comments on our page.
Watch our videos at YouTube.
Next publication: 9 April 2013
Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG
Luke Croydon 0845 6041858
Emergency on-call 07867 906553
Tel Stephen Curtis +44 (0)1633 456626
Tel 0845 601 3034
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: email@example.com
These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.
|Stephen Curtis||+44 (0)1633 456626||UK Trade / Trade and Transfersfirstname.lastname@example.org|