Important note to users: 10 December 2014
On 18 November 2014 and 27 November 2014, ONS announced errors had been identified in the expenditure estimates for UK residents visits abroad and overseas residents' visits to the UK within the Overseas Travel and Tourism release (which feed into the imports and exports of services) and in the geographic breakdown of the exports of goods respectively. The errors in the expenditure estimates affected data between January 2014 and September 2014 and the UK Trade releases over the same period; the geographic breakdown error impacted the August 2014 and September 2014 releases although the affected data were from 2009 onwards.
These errors have been corrected in the October 2014 UK Trade release and users should use that release for the corrected data and commentary.
Consistent with the Authority's letter of 14 November 2014, UK Trade will now be re-assessed for National Statistics status. The UK Statistics Authority plan to start the reassessment in January 2015 but this will be confirmed once ONS's review into the errors in the expenditure series has completed.
|Balance of trade in goods||Balance of trade in services||Total trade balance|
The deficit of trade in goods and services for May 2014 was £2.4 billion, compared with £2.1 billion in the previous month. The deficit on trade in goods was £9.2 billion in May 2014; the trade position reflects exports minus imports.
Exports of goods increased by 0.6% between April and May 2014 to £24.1 billion. The increase reflects a £0.2 billion rise in exports of semi-manufactured goods, specifically material manufactures which rose £0.1 billion from the previous month.
Imports of goods for the same period increased by 1.7% to £33.3 billion, reflecting a rise in imports of finished manufactured goods of £0.4 billion. Within finished manufactures, imports of aircraft rose £0.4 billion.
In May 2014, exports of goods to the European Union (EU) decreased by less than £0.1 billion to £12.2 billion; falls in the export of manufactured goods were almost entirely offset by a rise in exports of oil. Imports of goods from the EU increased by £0.3 billion to £17.4 billion.
In May 2014, exports of goods to countries outside of the EU increased by £0.2 billion to £11.9 billion. In contrast with trade with the EU, exports of manufactured goods rose from the previous month and were partially offset by a fall in exports of oil. Imports from countries outside of the EU increased by £0.3 billion to £15.9 billion, reflecting an increase in imports of semi-manufactured goods.
Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, it is recommended to compare the latest three months against the preceding three months and the same three months of the preceding year.
The deficit on trade in goods widened by £0.4 billion to £26.3 billion in the three months to May 2014, compared with the previous three months. Exports of goods increased by £0.1 billion to £72.6 billion in the three months to May 2014, reflecting increases in exports of cars, jewellery and ships. Imports of goods increased by £0.5 billion to £98.9 billion in the same period.
In the three months to May 2014, imports from the Irish Republic decreased by £0.9 billion to £2.4 billion; the lowest level reached since the three months to April 2004. Over the same period imports from China increased £1.1 billion to £10.0 billion, a record high.
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 annual surveys. That means that the data for the latest months are inevitably uncertain. For this reason comparisons of Q1 2014 with the previous quarter have been made rather than the three months to April 2014.
For Q1 2014, both exports and imports of services have been revised as the latest quarterly survey estimates have been included. Between Q4 2013 and Q1 2014 exports of services increased 1.4% to a record high of £51.6 billion. Within exports, there were increases in travel services, other business services and financial services.
The value of trade in goods grew steadily from the beginning of 2007 to mid 2008. The onset of the global economic downturn in mid-2008 affected the economic performance of the UK's major trading partners, and the value of both UK exports and imports fell sharply until Q2 2009. Growth in the value of trade in goods resumed from mid-2009 with improving global economic conditions. However, the value of both UK exports and imports have remained largely flat since mid-2011 with the continuing difficulties in many economies.
In 2013, the deficit on trade in goods narrowed by £0.8 billion to £107.9 billion (annually). The level of exports increased to a record £304.8 billion in 2013, up 1.4% from £300.5 billion in 2012.
However, the rise in exports was accompanied by an increase in imports to a record £412.6 billion in 2013, up 0.9% from £409.2 billion in 2012. Despite these record levels of exports and imports, annual growth in the value of trade in goods has slowed considerably since 2010 and 2011.
In May 2014, the UK's deficit on trade in goods was £9.2 billion, widening by £0.4 billion from April 2014.
Total exports increased by £0.1 billion (0.6%) to £24.1 billion and total imports increased by £0.5 billion (1.7%) to £33.3 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-138||+31|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-66||-34|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+145||+162|
In the three months ending May 2014, the deficit on trade in goods was £26.3 billion, widening by £0.4 billion from the previous three months.
Total exports increased by £0.1 billion (0.1%) to £72.6 billion and total imports increased by £0.5 billion (0.5%) to £98.9 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-142||-383|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+291||+117|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-234||+82|
In May 2014, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £0.3 billion to £5.2 billion.
Exports to the EU decreased by less than £0.1 billion (0.2%) to £12.2 billion and imports from the EU increased by £0.3 billion (1.6%) to £17.4 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||+31||-59|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+26||0|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+15||+22|
In the three months ending May 2014, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries was £15.1 billion, narrowing by £1.7 billion from a £16.7 billion deficit in the previous three months.
Exports to the EU increased by £0.6 billion (1.7%) to £36.6 billion and imports from the EU decreased by £1.0 billion (2.0%) to £51.7 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section 'trade in oil')||+1034||-787|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-12||-16|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-159||-135|
In May 2014, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries widened by £0.1 billion to £4.0 billion.
Exports to non-EU countries increased by £0.2 billion (1.5%) to £11.9 billion and imports from non-EU countries increased by £0.3 billion (1.7%) to £15.9 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-169||+90|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-92||-34|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||+130||+140|
In the three months ending May 2014, the deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries was £11.3 billion, widening by £2.0 billion from a £9.2 billion deficit in the previous three months.
Exports to non-EU countries decreased by £0.5 billion (1.5%) to £35.9 billion and imports from non-EU countries increased by £1.5 billion (3.3%) to £47.2 billion. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|Oil (see section on 'trade in oil')||-1176||+404|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+303||+133|
|Semi-manufactured goods other than chemicals||-75||+217|
Note: Monthly country movements are only detailed in this section where they are equal to or exceed £0.1 billion.
Within EU countries, exports of goods to France increased by £0.1 billion. Among countries outside of the EU there were no export movements exceeding £0.1 billion.
Within EU countries, imports of goods from Germany increased by £0.1 billion. Among countries outside of the EU there no import movements exceeding £0.1 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|May 2014 Value||1-month Change||May 2014 Value||1-month Change|
|10||United Arab Emirates||509||-3||10||Irish Republic||825||+74|
Note: Three-monthly country movements are only detailed in this section where they are equal to or exceed £0.3 billion.
Within EU countries, exports of goods to both Belgium & Luxembourg and Germany increased by £0.5 billion, exports to France decreased by £0.5 billion and to the Netherlands by £0.4 billion. Among countries outside of the EU, there were no export movements exceeding £0.3 billion.
Within EU countries, imports of goods from Germany increased by £0.7 billion, imports from the Irish Republic decreased by £0.9 billion, from the Netherlands by £0.6 billion and from Italy by £0.3 billion. Among countries outside of the EU imports of goods from China increased by £1.1 billion, Norway by £0.7 billion and imports to the USA decreased by £0.4 billion.
|Exports (£m)||Imports (£m)|
|March - May 2014 Value||Three-Monthly change||March - May 2014 Value||Three-Monthly change|
|10||United Arab Emirates||1,532||-57||10||Irish Republic||2,407||-917|
Between May 2014 and April 2014, the total volume of exports increased by 0.5% and the total volume of imports increased by 0.7%. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports % change||Imports % change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+1.9||-3.8|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||+4.2||+2.0|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||0.0||+2.8|
|Consumer goods other than cars||-3.4||0.0|
In the three months ending May 2014, the volume of exports increased by 1.9% and the volume of imports increased by 1.5%, when compared with the previous three months. At the commodity level the data are shown in the following table.
|Exports % change||Imports % change|
|Food, beverages and tobacco||+2.5||+0.7|
|Semi-manufactured goods; of which||+0.7||+4.4|
|Finished manufactured goods; of which||+1.4||+2.2|
|Consumer goods other than cars||+3.2||+1.0|
In May 2014, compared with April 2014, export prices decreased by 0.4% and import prices decreased by 0.4%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices decreased by 0.3% and import prices decreased by 0.4%.
In the three months ending May 2014, when compared with the previous three months, export prices decreased by 0.8% and import prices decreased by 1.1%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices decreased by 0.3% and import prices decreased by 0.8%.
In May 2014, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £0.9 billion, compared with a deficit of £0.7 billion in April 2014. Oil exports decreased by £0.1 billion to £2.7 billion and oil imports increased by less than £0.1 billion to £3.6 billion.
In the three months ending May 2014, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £2.2 billion, compared with a deficit of £2.4 billion in the previous three months. Oil exports decreased by £0.1 billion to £8.5 billion and oil imports decreased by £0.4 billion to £10.7 billion.
In May 2014, the UK's estimated surplus on trade in services was £6.8 billion.
Exports in May 2014 were estimated to have been £16.8 billion and imports £10.0 billion.
In the three months ending May 2014, the estimated surplus on trade in services was £20.6 billion.
Total exports were £50.8 billion and total imports were £30.2 billion.
Revisions from January 2013 onwards result from taking on various updated survey estimates and in some cases replacing forecasts.
The UK Trade record information for April 2014 can be accessed at the UK Trade Records Sheet, May 2014 (35.5 Kb Excel sheet) .
Article on changes to the measurement of trade
On 10 June 2014, ONS published an article ' Methodological changes to the measurement of Trade due to the introduction of new international standards ' describing changes that will be implemented from September 2014 to how trade will be measured in the National Accounts, in order to comply with European statistical guidelines.
In this release, periods from January 2013 are open for revision.
As of 1 January 2014, Latvia joined the European Monetary Union (EMU). Therefore the EMU totals in this UK Trade release include Latvia.
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.
An article outlining the ONS policy on special events is available on the ONS website.
Code of Practice for Official Statistics
National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2014.
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 & 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. 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 - The Pink Book, 2013.
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 does 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 - The Pink Book, 2013.
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.
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)||40,936||788||1025|
|Total trade imports (IKBI)||43,354||229||538|
|Total trade balance (IKBJ)||-2,418||566*||722|
The table covers estimates of UK trade first published from August 2009 (for June 2009) to July 2013 (for April 2013). Revision spreadsheets giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table are 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.
The coverage of EMU countries was extended to cover Cyprus and Malta from July 2008, Slovakia from January 2009, Estonia from January 2011 and Latvia from January 2014. Some EU and non-EU breakdowns of commodity data for chained volume measures which are available on request may be less reliable than the current price data. Please consult Katherine Kent on 01633 455829 if you are considering using them.
Data have been combined for the United States & Puerto Rico and for Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Sharjah (the United Arab Emirates) from January 2009 onwards. Estimates are separately available for the United States and Dubai up to 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 (41.7 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 6 June 2014. The revisions to trade in goods from April 2014 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.
The revisions to trade in services from January 2013 are due to updated survey information from the ONS International Trade survey, with revisions also from the Bank of England and other survey and administrative sources and a reassessment of seasonal factors.
A list of the organisations given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin can be found on the ONS website.
The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin are also available to view and download in other electronic formats free of charge using the ONS Time Series Data website service. Users can download the complete statistical bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own selections of individual series.
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Next publication: 8 August 2014
Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport, NP10 8XG
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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
|Katherine Kent||+44 (0)1633 455829||UK Trade/Trade and Transfersfirstname.lastname@example.org|