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External trade in goods

The external trade statistics provide information about the value and volume of goods traded – imports and exports – between the euro area as a whole and countries outside the euro area. This means EU Member States that have not adopted the euro, like Denmark, as well as the euro area’s main trading partners outside the EU, such as Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

The external trade statistics are presented by product group and main trading partners, and measured both in terms of value and as indices of volume and unit value.

Trade statistics value imports on a c.i.f. basis (including cost of transit, insurance and freight up to the importer’s border) and exports on an f.o.b. basis (free on board at the exporter’s border).

Product classification

Product groupings (13 in total) are shown in two aggregate classifications.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

Broad Economic Categories are derived from SITC statistics but provide a more homogeneous aggregation of the data.

Geographical breakdown

The geographical breakdown shows the euro area’s main trading partners individually and in regional groups. There are 31 partners for each product group, selected according to their economic relevance for euro area trade. 

Data within the ECB Data Portal

Comparability with balance of payments statistics

Owing to differences in definitions, classification, coverage and time of recording, external trade data, in particular for imports, are not fully comparable with the goods item in the balance of payments statistics.

Part of the difference arises from the inclusion of insurance and freight services in the recording of goods imported in external trade data, but the most important reason for the discrepancy is the difference between the change of ownership concept used in the balance of payments and the customs recording approach used in trade statistics. Trade statistics consider a transaction to have taken place when goods physically move across borders (customs recording approach), while the balance of payments approach is based on a change of ownership.

However, both sets of statistics broadly reflect the same economic phenomena. Therefore any differences are expected to be identifiable and fairly stable over time.

Seasonal adjustment

All external trade data are seasonally adjusted by the European Commission (Eurostat). Where appropriate, these data are also adjusted for working day effects, as well as for the impact of leap years and Easter. The seasonally adjusted euro area aggregates are estimated indirectly by adding up the seasonally adjusted euro area country data.

Sources and methods

External trade in goods statistics are compiled by Eurostat on a monthly basis following a harmonised methodology set out in European regulations (known as the “Community concept”) and using data collection systems based on both extra-EU and intra-EU (Intrastat) data. 

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