|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The deficit on trade in goods was little changed in May, at an estimated £8.5 billion. Within that, however, there was an appreciable increase in the level of oil exports in May. Excluding oil, the balance worsened by £0.7 billion to £7.7 billion. This was within the range of normal month-to-month movements. The deficit of £7.7 billion was less than in every month other than April this year and at almost exactly the average level for the months of 2012.
The main reason for the increase in oil exports was sales of crude oil to the Netherlands. Recent months have seen a relatively low level of crude oil exports (from the UK to the rest of the world as a whole) and May saw a bounce-back. An estimated 5 million tonnes were exported, the highest monthly level since August 2004.
The trade deficit with EU countries was £0.6 billion lower in May than in April, partly as a result of the higher level of exports to the Netherlands. The trade deficit with the non-EU countries rose by £0.7 billion in the same period, though it remained slightly lower than the average monthly deficit in 2012.
Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, to discern patterns it is necessary to look at data over a longer period. Many of the reference tables give comparisons of the latest three months with both the preceding three months and with the same three months of 2012. The comparison with a year earlier should be viewed with caution at the moment; figures (particularly export data) for the spring months of 2012 were unusually volatile, possibly due to the unusual pattern of public holidays in that period.
Export and import volumes have recovered slightly in recent months from the low levels at the beginning of 2013. In the latest three months, excluding both oil and erratic items (trade in ships, aircraft, precious stones and silver) they were 1.3% and 1.4% respectively higher than in the preceding three months and around half a per cent higher than the average level in 2012.
Trade prices have also risen in recent months, probably reflecting the lower level of sterling since early 2013. In the latest three months and excluding oil and erratic items, export prices were 2.0% higher than in the preceding three months, while there was a rise of 1.5% in import prices. This brought both price levels, which had fallen in the second half of last year, back to the levels in the first half of 2012.
By country, trade deficits with Belgium and Luxembourg and with Germany have increased in recent months. Figures for Belgium and Luxembourg can be variable, perhaps reflecting in part Antwerp’s status as an entrepot. Exports to Germany have fallen back in recent months and in the latest three months were 9% lower by value than the average quarterly level during 2012. Import values were, in contrast, 4% higher.
Outside the EU, the level of exports to China continues to grow. In the latest three months the value of exports was 17% higher than the average 2012 quarterly level. Import values from China were little changed, so the trade deficit with China, which had averaged £5.2 billion a quarter in 2012 shrank to £4.8 billion in the latest three months.
Historically, the UK runs a trade in goods surplus with the United States. That rose in the latest three months. The value of exports was 5% higher than its average 2012 level, while imports fell by 8%.
This Bulletin also reports on trade in services. However, the information on trade in services is mainly obtained from quarterly surveys, in some cases underpinned by larger-scale annual inquiries. That means that the figures for the latest months are inevitably uncertain. However, indications are that the surplus on services may have been reduced slightly in the latest months as exports of travel services have fallen back while the levels of imports of services have recovered slightly to their mid-2012 position.
The United Kingdom Balance of Payments for 2012 (the “Pink Book”) will be published on 31 July. This Bulletin, as is normal practice, incorporates the revisions that will be made for the annual publication.
Trade in goods is now estimated to have been in deficit in 2012 by around £1.6 billion more than previously estimated. This is largely due to two effects. The Overseas Trade Statistics have been revised with the discovery of duplicated trade which has now been corrected, reducing oil exports to the EU. There has also been a re-assessment of the levels of smuggling of alcohol and tobacco that has raised the levels of imports.
In contrast, the surplus for trade in services for 2012 is now estimated to have been £3.8 billion greater than previously published. Exports of services were revised upwards by £5.4 billion from the inclusion of annual results from the ONS International Trade in Services survey, and updated estimates from the Bank of England. Exports of financial services, other business services, insurance services and personal, cultural & recreational services all show revisions exceeding £1 billion. Imports of services were revised upwards by £1.6 billion mainly within financial services and insurance services.
The value of trade in goods has grown only gently since the beginning of 2007. In that year, and into 2008, there was steady growth in each as the UK economy, and those of our major trading partners expanded. That expansion came to a sharp end during 2008 and, as these economies turned downwards, so did the levels of trade. Growth was not resumed until summer 2009. It was steady for the two years after that, but with the continuing difficulties in many economies in moving out of recession, the value of both exports and imports has remained flat since mid-2011.
The deficit on trade in goods reached £108 billion in 2012 as a whole, around 7% of GDP. Between the beginning of 2007 and 2009Q3 the deficit fell slightly (at an annual rate, from around £90 billion to around £80 billion) but widened over the following two years. Since the beginning of 2012 the deficit has, at an annual rate, been over £100 billion in every quarter.
In May 2013, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £8.5 billion, £0.1 billion higher than in April.
Total exports increased by £0.4 billion (1.5%) to £25.6 billion and total imports increased by £0.4 billion (1.3%) to £34.1 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+782||+196|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-163||+47|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-241||-327|
In the three months ending May 2013, the deficit on trade in goods was £26.1 billion, compared with a deficit of £26.3 billion in the three months ending February 2013.
Total exports increased by £2.0 billion (2.7%) to £76.5 billion and total imports increased by £1.8 billion (1.8%) to £102.6 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-348||+194|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+229||-122|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+174||-1,048|
|Fuels other than oil*||:||+1,132|
* Three monthly commodity movements for Silver and Fuels other than oil are only detailed where they equal or exceed £400 million.
In May 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries decreased by £0.6 billion to £4.4 billion.
Exports to the EU increased by £0.8 billion (6.9%) to £12.9 billion and imports from the EU increased by £0.2 billion (1.3%) to £17.3 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+950||+127|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-68||+15|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-111||-103|
In the three months ending May 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries increased by £0.6 billion to £15.1 billion, compared with a deficit of £14.5 billion in the three months ending February 2013.
Exports to the EU increased by £0.3 billion (0.8%) to £37.4 billion and imports from the EU increased by £0.9 billion (1.8%) to £52.5 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||-103||-245|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+46||+47|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+10||-211|
|Fuels other than oil*||:||+484|
Three-monthly commodity movements for Fuels other than oil are only detailed where they equal or exceed £400 million.
In May 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries increased by £0.7 billion to £4.1 billion.
Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £0.5 billion (3.5%) to £12.7 billion and imports from non-EU countries increased by £0.2 billion (1.2%) to £16.8 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-168||+69|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-95||+32|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-130||-224|
|Fuels other than oil*||:||+223|
* Monthly commodity movements for Fuels other than oil are only detailed where they equal or exceed £200 million.
In the three months ending May 2013, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries decreased by £0.8 billion to £11.0 billion, compared with the three months ending February 2013.
Exports to non-EU countries increased by £1.7 billion (4.6%) to £39.0 billion and imports from non-EU countries increased by £0.9 billion (1.8%) to £50.0 billion. At the commodity level:
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-245||+439|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+183||-169|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+164||-837|
Within EU countries, exports to the Netherlands increased by £0.6 billion and exports to France decreased by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to Saudi Arabia and the USA decreased by £0.2 billion.
Within EU countries, imports from Germany and Sweden increased by £0.1 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Russia increased by £0.3 billion, imports from Saudi Arabia and the USA increased by £0.2 billion and imports from China increased by £0.1 billion. Imports from Israel and Norway decreased by £0.2 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|May 2013 Value||1-month Change||May 2013 Value||1-month Change|
Within EU countries, exports to the Netherlands increased by £0.4 billion and exports from Germany decreased by £0.5 billion. Among non-EU countries, exports to India increased by £0.8 billion and exports to the USA increased by £0.7 billion. Exports from South Korea decreased by £0.7 billion and exports from Switzerland decreased by £0.5 billion.
Within EU countries, imports from Belgium and Luxembourg increased by £0.5 billion. Imports from the Netherlands and Germany increased by £0.3 billion and imports from Denmark decreased by £0.4 billion. Among non-EU countries, imports from Switzerland decreased by £0.6 billion and imports from the USA decreased by £0.3 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|May 2013 Value||3-Month Change||May 2013 Value||3-Month Change|
Between April and May 2013, the volume of exports decreased by 1.4% and the volume of imports increased by 1.7%. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+3.0||+3.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||-2.0||-2.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-8.2||-2.2|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||-2.6||+1.9|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-7.5||+1.0|
In the three months ending May 2013, the volume of exports increased by 1.3% and the volume of imports increased by 1.4%, compared with the preceding three months. At the commodity level:
|% change||% change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||-1.9||+1.0|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||+1.0||-2.6|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-4.4||-9.7|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+1.2||+1.3|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+2.1||-1.6|
In May, export and import prices decreased by 0.5% and 0.3% respectively, when compared with April. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices decreased by 0.5% and import prices decreased by 0.1%.
In the three months ending May 2013, export prices increased by 1.2% and import prices increased by 0.9%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices increased by 1.9% and import prices increased by 1.4%.
In May, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £0.8 billion, compared with a deficit of £1.4 billion in April. Oil exports increased by £0.8 billion to £3.7 billion and oil imports increased by £0.2 billion to £4.5 billion.
In the three months ending May 2013, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £3.4 billion, compared with a deficit of £2.8 billion in the previous three months. Oil exports decreased by £0.3 billion to £9.5 billion and oil imports increased by £0.2 billion to £12.9 billion.
In May 2013, the UK's estimated surplus on trade in services was £6.1 billion.
Exports in May 2013 were estimated to have been £16.2 billion and imports £10.2 billion.
In the three months ending May 2013, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £19.3 billion.
Total exports were £49.2 billion and total imports were £29.9 billion.
The UK Trade record information for May 2013 can be accessed at the ONS Website (41 Kb Excel sheet) .
As announced in the March 2013 UK Trade release, the dataset published today includes revisions to oil export figures.
Blue Book 2013 and Pink Book 2013
The data published in this Statistical Bulletin are consistent with the Quarterly National Accounts (1st Quarter 2013) published on 27 June 2013, the 2013 Blue Book and the 2013 Pink Book. As previously announced, the revision period for this publication is back to January 1997, in line with the open revisions period for the 2013 Blue Book.
Consistent with changes to Blue Book, the reference year has moved from 2009=100 to 2010=100 and the base year for chained volume measures from 2009 to 2010.
An article on the content of the 2013 Blue Book and the associated publication dates can be found on the ONS website.
In this release, periods from January 1997 are open for revision.
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 (2010) weighted.
Changes in trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud mean that comparisons of volume and prices (both including and excluding trade associated with VAT MTIC fraud) should be treated with a great deal of caution.
A paper (384.4 Kb Pdf) , Statistics on Trade in Goods (GSS Methodological Series No. 36) describing the adjustments that need to be applied to conform to IMF definitions for Balance of Payments and the division of responsibility between ONS and HMRC is available on the ONS website.
The Overseas Trade Statistics (OTS) data used as inputs to this statistical bulletin are collected and published by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on an International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) basis.
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)||41,845||815||1,052|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||44,280||350||650|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-2,435||482||650|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from July 2008 (for May 2008) to June 2012 (for April 2012). Revisions spreadsheets giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available on the ONS website.
An article (2.33 Mb Pdf) analysing past revisions to quarterly balance of payments current account data was published in the May 2007 edition of Economic & Labour Market Review. It is available on the ONS website.
More information about revisions material in this Statistical Bulletin can be found on the ONS website.
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 17R shows revisions to the main aggregates since the last Trade Statistical Bulletin of 7 June 2013. The revisions to trade in goods from January 1997 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.
Supplementary quarterly data analysed by industry according to the Classification of Product by Activity 08 (UK Trade in Goods Analysed in Terms of Industries) are also available.
The complete run of data in the tables of this Statistical Bulletin are also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using the ONS Time Series Data website service. Users can download the complete Statistical Bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series.
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 August 2013
Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG
Jim Campbell 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|