EU records smaller trade surplus as international trade takes a tumble

A significant drop in international trade resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a much smaller trade surplus being registered in the EU and in the euro area last April.

Eurostat figures show that the EU exported €125.4 billion worth of goods to the rest of the world in April, a drop of 28.2% compared to April 2019. At the same time, the value of imports from outside the EU dropped by 22.7%, from €161.8 billion to €125.1 billion. Consequently, the EU’s trade surplus in April amounted to €0.2 billion, compared with €12.9 billion in April 2019.

The euro area registered a higher trade surplus than the EU as a whole, though this was also impacted by the fall in international trade. Its surplus in April stood at €2.9 billion, down from €15.5 billion in April 2019, as its exports fell by 29.3% (from €193.3 billion to €136.6 billion) while imports fell by 24.8% (from €177.8 billion to €133.7 billion.

The decreases in trade are less pronounced when the first four months of 2020 are considered.

The EU’s trade surplus actually increased during this period when compared to the first four months of 2019, from €46.9 billion to €47.7 billion, as exports fell by 8.3% to €638.2 billion while imports fell by 9% to €590.5 billion.

Brexit makes UK EU’s third-biggest trade partner

During the same period, exports from the euro area fell by 8.6% to €703.3 billion, while imports dropped by 9.3% to €646.3 billion. Consequently, its trade surplus fell from €57.2 to €57 billion.

The EU’s two biggest trading partners in the first four months of 2020 were the US, China, with Brexit turning the UK into its third biggest trading partner. During this period, the EU registered a trade surplus of €44 billion with the US and of €33.1 billion with the UK, though it recorded a trade deficit of €53.3 billion in China.

Given its reliance on imports, Malta registered a trade deficit of around €0.8 billion between January and April, but this was just over half the €1.5 billion trade deficit recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.