1. Main points

UK trade shows import and export activity and is a main contributor to the overall economic growth of the UK. All data are shown on a seasonally adjusted, balance of payments basis, at current prices unless otherwise stated.

The UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was estimated to have been £3.3 billion in April 2016, a narrowing of £0.2 billion from March 2016. Both exports and imports increased and the narrowing of the deficit reflects a greater increase in exports than imports.

The deficit on trade in goods was £10.5 billion in April 2016; narrowing by £0.1 billion from March 2016. This narrowing reflected an increase in exports (up £2.2 billion to £26.1 billion) and an increase in imports (up £2.0 billion to £36.6 billion).

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, the total trade deficit for goods and services narrowed by £2.1 billion to £11.3 billion.

The deficit on trade in goods narrowed by £1.5 billion to a deficit of £32.6 billion between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016. Exports increased by £4.4 billion (6.4%) and imports increased by £2.9 billion (2.9%).

In the 3 months to April 2016, the UK’s trade in goods deficit with the EU widened by £0.6 billion, to a record 3 monthly deficit of £23.8 billion. In the 3 months to April 2016, exports of goods to the EU increased by £2.1 billion and imports of goods from the EU increased by £2.7 billion, to a record 3 monthly level of £58.6 billion.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, the trade in services surplus widened by £0.6 billion to £21.3 billion, reflecting a fall in imports of services.

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2. Main figures for April 2016

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3. Understanding and working with UK trade statistics

Short guide to UK trade

UK trade shows the extent of import and export activity and is an important contributor to the overall economic growth of the UK. Trade is measured through both imports and exports of goods and/or services. Data are supplied by over 30 sources including several administrative sources, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) being the largest.

This monthly release contains tables showing the total value of trade in goods together with index numbers of volume and price. Figures are analysed by broad commodity group (values and indices) and according to geographical area (values only). In addition, the UK trade statistical bulletin also includes early monthly estimates of the value of trade in services.

This bulletin focuses on trade in goods due to the coverage and comprehensiveness of the administrative data sources available for goods as it is easier to quantify and measure. Trade in services is more difficult to measure, and source data is provided mainly on a quarterly or annual basis principally from ITIS (International Trade in Services survey). Monthly estimates are derived using this quarterly data; therefore the data are less robust on a monthly basis compared with goods.

As more information becomes available on trade in services this bulletin will focus on the values, volumes and geographic breakdown on a 3 monthly cycle described below:

Month Trade in services detail
March, June, October, December Focus on the estimated quarterly change in exports and imports of services by the main types of service
January, April, July, October Focus on trade in services in volume terms
February, May, October, November Focus on trade in services with EU and selected non-EU countries

Our website

The UK trade methodology web pages can now be found on our website. These have been developed to provide detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics. Any recent user requested trade data are included on our website.

Understanding UK trade

We make every effort to provide informative commentary on the data in this release. Where possible, the commentary draws on evidence from other sources of information to help explain possible reasons behind the observed changes. However, in some instances it can prove difficult to draw out detailed reasons for movements; consequently, it is not possible for all data movements to be fully explained.

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, it is recommended to compare the latest 3 months against the preceding 3 months and the same 3 months of the previous year.

When examining the trade in goods data, oil and “erratics”, which are high value, low volume products, are removed from some analysis as they are extremely influential on trade in goods as a whole. Therefore we publish data inclusive and exclusive of these categories. We also provide a separate analysis of oil because it is subject to erratic price fluctuations and therefore volume data is provided in metric tonnes as well as value (£ million).

Strengths and weaknesses of the data

Strengths

Quality of trade in goods data

The quality of the source data for trade in goods is high in terms of the timeliness, comprehensiveness and coverage and this level of quality compares well internationally. The data are used across government, business and academia and feed into a number of other outputs and publications; including GDP and balance of payments. The Bank of England uses the total figures to make policy decisions, whereas government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are interested in the individual country detail.

We have frequent communication with our suppliers to discuss quality, including regular meetings, telephone conversations and email correspondence. Service level agreements are in place to define the level of quality expected in the data received and these are reviewed annually. Data suppliers have their own internal quality assurance processes to meet the quality standards outlined in the service level agreements and we work closely with them to understand these. Suppliers are required to advise us of any changes to the collection or processing of the data to ensure our expectations are still met.

When data is received by the trade team we conduct our own initial quality assurance. Further quality analysis is then conducted at several stages of processing; this is detailed in a process map and quality assurance plan. If there are any quality concerns we work closely with the supplier to address these.

We have regular discussions with users on the quality of our data and provide comprehensive explanations of the terms, methodology and processes we use. Eurostat is an important customer influence and helps improve the quality of our data through task force meetings and by producing quality guidelines.

Timeliness of publications

The UK trade publication is very timely (generally 40 days after the period to which it refers), helping to inform policy and to assess UK economic performance.

Weaknesses

Quality and timeliness of trade in services data

Where trade in goods has one main data supplier, there are a large number of suppliers of trade in services data. Additionally, a number are voluntary, so it can be difficult to establish and maintain the same quality assurance processes and relationships with these businesses or suppliers.

Due to the collection methods and complexities of quantifying trade in services, data is less timely than trade in goods estimates. The data is processed quarterly, so monthly forecasts are made to provide a complete trade total.

Monthly volatility

Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, we recommend comparing the latest 3 months against the preceding 3 months and the same 3 months of the previous year, however we also recognise the importance to users of an early estimate of trade therefore we continue to produce a monthly estimate.

UK trade National Statistics suspension

Due to a series of errors during 2014, the UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014. The Authority's reassessment of UK trade against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics has been completed. We are committed to meeting the requirements and regaining National Statistics status for UK trade as soon as possible and will keep you informed of progress.

One of the recommendations of the reassessment was to consult with users on the use of UK trade statistics. The results of this user engagement survey can be found on our website.

To provide feedback on the bulletin please contact us via email trade@ons.gsi.gov.uk

UK trade re-assessment update

ONS has now addressed some of the requirements of the re-assessment of UK trade and is in the final stages of providing evidence on the remaining requirements. In doing so, we are working with the Assessment Team to evaluate whether any additional evidence will be required as a result of the Independent review of UK economic statistics, led by Professor Sir Charles Bean.

Trade development plan

The consultation period for the trade development plan has now closed. We will publish an updated development plan including user feedback.

Definitions and explanations

A glossary of terms is published in the UK trade glossary and the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2015.

Nonmonetary gold

According to internationally agreed standards, nonmonetary gold held in allocated accounts is recorded as a good; therefore, gold of this type which is being stored as a financial asset is recognised under trade in goods when ownership changes between a resident and non-resident.

Data are collected by the Bank of England from the London Bullion Market on holdings of nonmonetary gold. Working alongside the Bank of England and the London Bullion Market Association we have implemented a method for smoothing the source data; effectively minimising volatility whilst enabling the underlying trend of the gold market to be reflected in the trade balance.

Estimates for trade in nonmonetary gold still remain volatile compared with other commodities and, as such, is classified under erratics.

Use of the data

UK trade is a main 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 2 other main economic indicators: 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 does not always agree exactly with the totals shown due to rounding.

Symbols: .. Not applicable
- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.

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4. Summary of latest UK trade statistics

Monthly analysis

The deficit on trade in goods and services in April 2016 was £3.3 billion, compared with a deficit of £3.5 billion in March 2016. The trade position reflects exports minus imports; the narrowing of the deficit was attributed to an increase to both exports and imports between March 2016 and April 2016.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, total exports increased by £2.3 billion to £44.9 billion (5.3%), this is the largest percentage growth since February 2010. This increase comprised a £2.2 billion (9.1%) growth in the exports of goods (the highest percentage increase since January 2003) and a £0.1 billion (0.5%) rise in the export of services. Total imports increased by £2.0 billion to £48.2 billion (4.4%) over the same period, reflecting a £2.0 billion rise in imports of goods.

The deficit on trade in goods was £10.5 billion in April 2016; narrowing by £0.1 billion from March 2016. This narrowing reflected an increase in exports (up £2.2 billion to £26.1 billion) and an increase in imports (up £2.0 billion to £36.6 billion). The increase in exports was attributed to a £0.5 billion increase in chemicals, a £0.4 billion increase in machinery, a £0.3 billion increase in oil and £0.2 increases in both cars and unspecified goods*; clothing, beverages and aircraft all increased by £0.1 billion. The increase in imports was attributed to a £0.7 billion increase in chemicals, a £0.4 billion increase in machinery and a £0.2 billion increase in ships.

Exports of goods to EU countries increased by £0.9 billion between March 2016 and April 2016. There was a £0.3 billion increase in exports of oil and a £0.2 billion increase in chemicals. Imports of goods from EU countries increased by £1.0 billion, to a monthly record of £20.1 billion over the same period. There was a £0.5 billion increase in imports of chemicals and a £0.2 billion increase in machinery; offset by a £0.1 billion fall in aircraft. These movements resulted in widening of the trade in goods deficit with EU countries by £0.1 billion, to a monthly deficit of £7.9 billion in April 2016.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, exports of goods to countries outside the EU increased by £1.3 billion to a record £14.0 billion. There were £0.3 billion increases in exports of both chemicals and machinery and a £0.2 billion increase in both cars and unspecified goods*; beverages and aircraft both increased by £0.1 billion. Imports from countries outside the EU increased by £1.0 billion; chemicals, ships and machinery all increased by £0.2 billion and there were £0.1 billion increases in clothing, aircraft, precious stones and non ferrous metals. These movements resulted in a £0.3 billion narrowing of the deficit with non-EU countries to £2.6 billion.

*Unspecified goods includes parcel post and low value trade, and, most notably, non-monetary gold.

3 monthly analysis

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, the total trade deficit (goods and services) narrowed by £2.1 billion to £11.3 billion. The trade position reflects exports minus imports; the widening of the deficit was attributed to an increase in both exports and imports.

The deficit on trade in goods narrowed by £1.5 billion to a deficit of £32.6 billion between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016. Exports of goods increased by £4.4 billion (6.4%), to £73.3 billion, the largest 3 month on 3 month percentage growth since January 2011. This increase reflected a £1.5 billion increase in unspecified goods*, a £1.3 billion increase in the export of chemicals and a £0.6 billion increase in both machinery and aircraft, with aircraft reaching a record 3 monthly level of £3.9 billion. Imports increased by £2.9 billion (2.9%) due to a £2.1 billion increase in machinery, a £0.9 billion increase in aircraft and a £0.4 billion increase in clothing and footwear (combined) which reached a record level of £6.3 billion in the 3 months to April 2016. These increases were offset by a £3.6 billion decrease in imports of unspecified goods*.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, exports of goods to EU countries increased by £2.1 billion due to exports of chemicals increasing by £0.7 billion, oil increasing by £0.4 billion and a £0.3 billion increase in machinery. There were also £0.2 billion increases in both cars and aircraft. These movements were offset by a decrease in fuels other than oil, which fell by £0.2 billion. For the same period, imports from the EU increased by £2.7 billion, to a record 3 monthly high of £58.6 billion. There were several record imports, which were mechanical machinery (increasing by £0.5 billion to £4.9 billion), cars (increasing by £0.3 billion to £7.6 billion), food and live animals (increasing by £0.2 billion to £5.7 billion) and clothing and footwear (combined) (increasing by £0.1 billion to £1.8 billion). This resulted in a widening of the trade in goods deficit with EU countries to a record 3 monthly level of £23.8 billion in the 3 months to April 2016.

There was a trade in goods deficit with non-EU countries of £8.8 billion in the 3 months to April 2016, a narrowing of £2.1 billion from the 3 months to January 2016. Exports of goods to countries outside the EU rose by £2.4 billion; this was the result of a £1.5 billion increase in unspecified goods* to a record high of £3.0 billion, a £0.6 billion increase in chemicals and a £0.4 billion increase in aircraft to a record high of £2.0 billion. These increases were offset by a £0.4 billion fall in oil. Imports of goods from countries outside the EU fell by £0.3 billion; most notably there was an increase in imports of machinery which increased by £1.5 billion to a record high of £12.2 billion; this increase was offset by a decrease in unspecified goods* of £3.7 billion.

*Unspecified goods includes parcel post and low value trade, and, most notably, non-monetary gold.

Revisions

In this publication the total trade (goods and services) deficit for March 2016 has been revised down by £0.3 billion. This is attributed to a £0.4 billion downwards revision to imports of EU goods. These revisions were mainly due to finished manufactures with £0.2 billion of revisions, spread across several commodities.

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5. Longer-term perspective

International comparisons

ONS data shows that UK exports have grown at an average rate of 8.7% in nominal terms over the last four decades (1974 -2014), however the level of UK exports as a proportion of world exports has been gradually declining. World Bank data shows that the UK’s share fell from 7.3% in 1970 to 3.6% in 2014, indicative of slower UK export growth relative to a number of other global economies such as China, Germany and the USA. This decline marks a halving in the UK’s share of world trade since the 1970s. In 1970, the UK held the 3rd highest export share among the G7 economies and China but has since alternated between 3rd, 4th and 5th positions.

Despite the USA’s share of world trade also coming down, particularly in the years around 2000, it has nevertheless maintained its position ranking of 1st, amongst the G7 economies, plus China. However, in 2014, China and the USA shared similar proportions of world trade, at around 10%, for the first time, reflecting both China’s rapid increase in world trade and the USA’s decline in its share of world trade. Since 1993, China’s exports have grown at a much faster rate averaging 18.6% per year- this has also been the fastest average growth rate among the 8 countries. Additionally, Germany has held a fairly high and relatively stable share of world exports averaging 8.2% since 1970, as shown in Figure 2.

UK trade with the EU

In 2015, exports of goods and services to the EU accounted for 44% of the total exports. The proportion is closer to half for exports of goods (47.0%) and just under two-fifths (39.0%) for trade in services. The share of exports has fallen by more than 10 percentage points over the last 15 years.

Rotterdam effect

In this context you should note the "Rotterdam effect" where goods initially exported to one country are subsequently re-exported to another country. This might overstate the share of exports going to a particular country, in this case the Netherlands, and therefore overstate the share of exports going to the EU.

It is not possible to quantify the Rotterdam effect precisely, but an article exploring the Rotterdam effect was published in 2015. The article used 2013 data to estimate the effect and made an assumption that 50% of all goods exports to the Netherlands were re-exported to non-EU countries. Using this assumption the Rotterdam effect would account for around 4 percentage points of the UK’s exports of goods. These effects were calculated to illustrate the possible size of the Rotterdam effect. The Rotterdam effect applies only to trade in goods. The 4 percentage points estimate therefore applies to the share of the exports of goods only.

When considering the total exports of goods and services to the EU – the 44.0% figure quoted above – the Rotterdam effect is estimated at around 2 percentage points. It is also important to note that the Rotterdam effect could also affect the UK’s imports. However, these effects were calculated to illustrate the possible size of the Rotterdam effect and does not imply that a different data series should be produced or used.

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6. Value of UK trade in goods

Monthly commentary

In April 2016, the UK’s deficit on trade in goods was £10.5 billion, narrowing by £0.1 billion from March 2016.

Exports increased by £2.2 billion (9.1%) to £26.1 billion in April 2016, from £24.0 billion in March 2016.

In detail:

  • chemicals rose by £0.5 billion
  • machinery rose by £0.4 billion
  • oil rose by £0.3 billion

Imports increased by £2.0 billion (5.9%) to £36.6 billion in April 2016, from £34.6 billion in March 2016.

In detail:

  • chemicals rose by £0.7 billion
  • machinery rose by £0.4 billion
  • material manufactures rose by £0.3 billion
  • ships rose by £0.2 billion

Quarterly analysis

In the 3 months to April 2016, the deficit on trade in goods was £32.6 billion, narrowing by £1.5 billion from the 3 months to January 2016.

Exports increased by £4.4 billion (6.4%) to £73.3 billion in the 3 months to April 2016, compared with £68.9 billion in the 3 months to January 2016.

In detail:

  • unspecified goods rose by £1.5 billion
  • chemicals rose by £1.3 billion
  • machinery and aircraft both rose by £0.6 billion, with aircraft reaching a record 3 monthly level of £3.9 billion

Imports increased by £2.9 billion (2.9 %) to £105.9 billion in the 3 months to April 2016, compared with £103.0 billion in the 3 months to January 2016.

In detail:

  • machinery rose by £2.1 billion
  • aircraft rose by £0.9 billion
  • clothing and footwear (combined) rose by £0.4 billion.

At the main commodity level, the data are shown in Table 3.

Where to find data about UK trade in goods

The value of trade in goods figures are available in Table 1 and commodity figures are available in Tables 8, 9 and 10 of the dataset of the tables.

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7. Trade in goods – analysis by area

In April 2016, the deficit on trade in goods with EU countries widened by £0.1 billion to £7.9 billion. The deficit on trade in goods with non-EU countries narrowed by £0.3 billion to £2.6 billion (Figure 5).

EU analysis

Between March 2016 and April 2016, exports to the EU increased by £0.9 billion (7.7%) to £12.2 billion. This was attributed to increases in exports to France of £0.3 billion and to Belgium and Luxembourg (combined), Germany, the Irish Republic and Sweden all of £0.1 billion.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, imports from the EU increased by £1.0 billion (5.3%) to £20.1 billion. This was attributed to an increase in imports from Belgium and Luxembourg (combined) of £0.4 billion, from Germany of £0.2 billion and from Italy, the Irish Republic, the Netherlands and Sweden all of £0.1 billion.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, exports to the EU increased by £2.1 billion (6.3%) to £34.8 billion. This was attributed to an increase in exports to France of £0.7 billion, the Netherlands and Germany of £0.4 billion each and £0.2 billion increases to both Italy and Sweden.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, imports from the EU increased by £2.7 billion (4.8%) to £58.6 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from Germany of £0.7 billion, to the Netherlands of £0.6 billion and record 3 monthly imports to Belgium and Luxembourg (combined) and Spain, both with increases of £0.3 billion.

At the commodity level, the data are shown in Table 4.

Non-EU analysis

Between March 2016 and April 2016, exports to non-EU countries increased by £1.3 billion (10.2%) to £14.0 billion. This was attributed to an increase in exports to the USA of £0.9 billion.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, imports from non-EU countries increased by £1.0 billion (6.7%) to £17.0 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from Canada and South Korea of £0.3 billion each and Russia of £0.2 billion. These increases were partially offset by decreases in imports from the USA of £0.3 billion and Norway of £0.2 billion.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, exports to non-EU countries increased by £2.4 billion (6.6%) to £38.5 billion. This was attributed to increases in exports to China of £1.5 billion and Switzerland of £1.1 billion.

Between the 3 months to January 2016 and the 3 months to April 2016, imports from non-EU countries increased by £0.3 billion (0.6%) to £47.3 billion. This was attributed to increases in imports from China, Switzerland and South Korea of £0.4 billion each and from Japan of £0.3 billion. These increases were offset by a decrease in imports to Canada of £1.8 billion.

At the commodity level, the data are shown in Table 5.

Where to find data about UK trade in goods – analysis by area

Trade in goods by area figures are available in Table 2 and value of trade in goods with selected EU and non-EU trading partner figures are available in Tables 11 and 12 of the dataset of the tables.

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8. Trade in goods – geographical analysis

Monthly analysis

The USA was the UK’s top export partner with exports of £4.1 billion in April 2016, increasing by £0.9 billion when compared with March 2016.

Germany was the UK’s top import partner with imports of £5.3 billion in April 2016, decreasing by £0.2 billion when compared with March 2016.

3 monthly analysis

In the 3 months to April 2016, the USA was the UK’s top export partner with exports of £11.0 billion, increasing by £0.1 billion when compared with the 3 months to January 2016.

Germany was the UK’s top import partner with imports of £15.8 billion, increasing by £0.7 billion when compared with the 3 months to January 2016.

Where to find data about UK trade in goods – geographical analysis

Trade in goods by area figures are available in Table 2 and value of trade in goods with selected EU and non-EU trading partner figures are available in Tables 11 and 12 of the dataset of the tables.

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9. Volume of trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics

Between March 2016 and April 2016, the volume of exports increased by 10.3%.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, the volume of imports increased by 4.8%.

In the 3 months to April 2016, the volume of exports increased by 3.8% when compared with the 3 months to January 2016.

In the 3 months to April 2016, the volume of imports increased by 3.8% when compared with the 3 months to January 2016.

At the commodity level, the data are shown in Table 8:

Where to find data about volume of trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics

The volume of trade in goods, excluding oil and erratics figures are available in Table 3 of the dataset of the tables.

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10. Export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted)

In April 2016, compared with March 2016, export prices increased by 0.3% and import prices increased by 1.0%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices remained unchanged and import prices increased by 0.4%.

In the 3 months to April 2016, when compared with the 3 months to January 2016, export prices increased by 2.6% and import prices increased by 2.2%. Excluding the oil price effect, export prices increased by 2.8% and import prices increased by 2.5%.

Where to find data about export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted)

The export and import prices for trade in goods (not seasonally adjusted) figures are available in Table 3 of the dataset of the tables.

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11. Trade in oil

In April 2016, the balance of trade in oil was in deficit by £0.5 billion, a narrowing of £0.2 billion from March 2016. Oil exports increased by £0.3 billion to £1.6 billion and oil imports increased by £0.1 billion to £2.1 billion.

In the 3 months to April 2016, the balance on trade in oil was in deficit by £1.4 billion; narrowing by £10.0 million from the 3 months to January 2016. Oil exports decreased by £18.0 million to £4.3 billion and oil imports decreased by £28.0 million to £5.7 billion.

Where to find data about trade in oil

The trade in oil figures are available in Tables 1 and 7 of the dataset of the tables.

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12. Trade in services

Information on trade in services is mainly obtained from Quarterly surveys, in some cases underpinned by larger annual surveys. This means that the latest months are uncertain.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, the estimated surplus on trade in services rose by £0.1 billion in to £7.2 billion. Exports are estimated to have been £18.8 billion and imports £11.6 billion. In Quarter 1 (January to March) 2016, the surplus on trade in services was £20.9 billion; financial services being the largest contributor with a surplus of £10.5 billion.

Analysis by volume (chained volume measure CVM)

Between Quarter 4 (October to December) 2015 and Quarter 1 (January to March) 2016, exports of services decreased by £0.3 billion to £54.8 billion; the main contributor to this decrease was other business services (£0.8 billion). This decrease was offset by increases in other services (£0.4 billion) and travel services (£0.1 billion). For the same period, the import of services decreased by £0.5 billion to £34.7 billion; the main contributors to this decrease were travel services (£1.6 billion) and all other services (£0.4 billion), offset by an increase in other business services (£1.5 billion).

Between Quarter 1 (January to March) 2015 and Quarter 1 (January to March) 2016, exports of services increased by £1.0 billion. Within exports, the largest increase was seen in all other services (£1.8 billion); this was offset by a decrease in financial services (£0.9 billion). For the same period, imports increased by £1.0 billion, reflecting an increase in other business services (£1.0 billion); this was offset by decreases in travel services (£0.4 billion) and all other services (£0.1 billion).

Revisions

Between the March 2016 and April 2016 UK trade publication, the Quarter 1 (January to March) 2016 surplus for trade in services has been revised down by £0.5 billion, which reflected a downward revision of £0.5 billion to exports and a downward revision of £23.0 million to imports. The main contributor for the revision in exports was other business services (£1.7 billion). This revision was offset by a upward revision in the export of financial services (£0.3 billion), intellectual property services (£0.3 billion), manufacturing services (£0.3 billion) and personal services (£0.2 billion). The main contributors for the revision to imports were travel services (£1.4 billion). This revision was offset by a upward revision to exports of other business services (£1.1 billion) and construction services (£0.2 billion).

Where to find data about trade in services

The trade in services figures are available in Table 1 CONT. of the dataset of the tables.

A further breakdown of non-EU countries can found in the Quarter 4 (October to December) 2015 UK Economic Accounts.

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13. Where to find more information about UK trade statistics

Other regularly published UK trade releases

Supplementary quarterly data analysed by product according to the UK trade in goods by classification of product by activity (CPA 2008) are also available.

The latest release on 16 March 2016 covered the period Quarter 4 (October to December) 2015 and the data is consistent with UK trade January 2016 and contained revisions back to 2015. Following an internal review of our publications and a wider survey of users there is no longer a statistical bulletin associated with the release. Instead we have provided a longer-term commentary alongside the data tables.

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 our time series data website service. You can download the complete statistical bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download your own selections of individual series.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) publish Overseas trade statistics on the same day as we release the UK trade data each month. These aggregate estimates will differ slightly from those that are published by us as part of the Balance of Payments (BoP), as the 2 sets of data are compiled to different sets of rules. The BoP publication shows a high level picture of UK trade in goods, whereas the OTS publication shows a detailed picture of the UK’s trade in goods by commodity and partner country.

Recently published reports on UK trade topics

An impact of forthcoming annual changes to trade and their indicative impact on Balance of Payments was published on 7 June 2016.

The Economic Review published 6 April 2016 contains information on trade as a percentage of GDP.

The Economic Review published 3 February 2016 includes analysis of trade with EU and non-EU countries.

On 29 January 2016 annual International trade in services survey results for 2014 were published. This release gives information on the industry of the businesses engaged in trade in services.

Historic articles published on UK trade

On 30 October 2015 we published the annual Balance of Payments Pink Book 2015 which as well as containing more detailed information on trade also provided an overview of the trade deficit in relation to the current account deficit.

In our Economic Review published on 3 September 2015 there is further commentary on UK export performance.

On 1 September 2015, we published an article on the economic performance of the UK’s motor vehicle manufacturing industry.

On 26 June 2015, we published a short story on the importance of EU to UK trade and investment.

On 9 June 2015, we published a short story on the importance of China to the UK economy, including the value of the UK trade with China.

On 6 February 2015, we published an article on the Rotterdam effect and its potential impact on the UK trade in goods estimates.

On 23 January 2015, we published a short story exploring the reasons behind the UK trade deficit.

Published user requested data and analysis

Additional statistical data and analyses for UK trade statistics that have not been included in our standard publications are available at the user requested data and analysis pages on our website.

Methodological articles

Detailed methodological notes are published in the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, 2015.

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14. Revisions to trade statistics

Trade in goods revisions

In this release, periods from March 2016 are open for revision.

The revisions to trade in goods from March 2016 reflect revised data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and other data suppliers, later survey data on trade prices and a re-assessment of seasonal factors.

Trade in services revisions

In this release, periods from January 2016 are open for revision.

The National accounts revision policy can be found on our website.

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15. Accuracy of the statistics

Accuracy: Trade in goods figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in the light of:

  • late trader data
  • 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 likely to be less reliable than those for trade in goods.

Reliability: Revisions to data provide one indication of its reliability. Table 9 shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions that have been made to the data covering a 5-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.

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16. Other quality information

Advanced notice of correction

We would like to make you aware of an inconsistency between the implied deflator and the underlying price indices in trade in goods for some low level commodities in 2014. It has been estimated that the annual growth in exports and imports of total goods and services should be 0.5 percentage points higher, equivalent to a widening of the trade deficit of approximately £0.5 billion; all else being equal. We will correct this at the earliest opportunity in the Quarterly National Accounts publication on 30 June 2016.

UK trade re-assessment

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014. The Authority's re-assessment of UK trade against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics has been completed.

One of the recommendations of the re-assessment was to consult with users on the use of UK trade statistics. The results of this user engagement survey can be found on our website.

UK trade re-assessment update

ONS has now addressed some of the requirements of the re-assessment of UK trade and is in the final stages of providing evidence on the remaining requirements. In doing so, we are working with the Assessment Team to evaluate whether any additional evidence will be required as a result of the Independent review of UK economic statistics, led by Professor Sir Charles Bean.

Trade development plan

The trade development plan has now been launched.

HMRC methodology change for gas and revisions to past years

HMRC trade Statistics are amending the mechanism for the data source used in the compilation of Natural Gas traded with non-EU partners. We will implement these revisions in a phased approach. More details can be found on our website.

EMU enlargement

As of 1 January 2015, Lithuania joined the European Monetary Union (EMU). Therefore the EMU totals in this UK trade release include Lithuania.

EMU coverage

The coverage of EMU countries was extended to cover Cyprus and Malta from October 2008, Slovakia from January 2009, Estonia from January 2011, Latvia from January 2014 and Lithuania from January 2015. 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 +44 (0)1633 455829 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 to the end of 2008 on request.

Erratics

Non-monetary gold is now included in the erratics series; along with ships, aircraft, precious stones and silver. In compliance with the BPM6 changes, non-monetary gold which is held as a store of wealth is now recorded within trade in goods.

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 (2012) 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.

Interpreting the data

In months where quarterly and 3-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. 3-month ending data are the average of the index data in that period.

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.

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17. Records sheet

The UK trade record information for March 2016 can be accessed on our website.

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18 .Background notes

1. What’s new

Methodological change to the way HMRC trade in goods statistics are compiled

From May 2016 month of account, there will be a methodological change to the way HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) compiles non-EU statistics.

Following a change in legislation, non-EU trade in goods statistics will move from the General Trade system of compilation to the Special Trade system. In brief, special trade records the physical movement of goods to and from the UK, but excludes goods that are placed into a customs warehouse where duty and VAT has not yet been paid.

This change should have minimal impact on our trade in goods statistics as we currently apply adjustments to remove those goods held in a customs warehouse from our data, the only change we will be making is the removal of these adjustments.

A full announcement from HMRC is available on their website.

Advanced notice of correction

We would like to make you aware of an inconsistency between the implied deflator and the underlying price indices in trade in goods for some low level commodities in 2014. It has been estimated that the annual growth in exports and imports of total goods and services should be 0.5 percentage points higher, equivalent to a widening of the trade deficit of approximately £0.5 billion; all else being equal. We will correct this at the earliest opportunity in the Quarterly National Accounts publication on 30 June 2016.

2. Special events

An article outlining the ONS policy on special events is available on our website.

3. 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.

4. Quality and methodology information report

A quality and methodology information report for this statistical bulletin and associated data can be found on our website.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Katherine Kent
trade.in.goods@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455829