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This note looks at the UK’s main trading partners over the last 10-20 years. The attached Excel spreadsheet (see under supporting documents) allows for easy access and presentation of data on UK trade with individual countries between 1999 and 2020.

Disruptions to international trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic saw the value of UK trade contract sharply in 2020, a trend which has continued into 2021, amid ongoing covid related disruptions, combined with disruptions to UK-EU trade caused by the end of the Brexit transition period.

In cash terms, the value of UK exports fell by 14% between 2019 and 2020, while the value of imports fell by 17%. The fall was more pronounced in some areas than others – the value of service imports fell 24% between 2019 and 2020, while the value of service exports fell by 11%; the value of goods exports fell by 17%, while the value goods imports fell by 14%

The EU as a bloc is the UK’s largest trading partner. In 2020, it accounted for 42% of UK exports of goods and services and 50% of the UK’s imports. The EU’s share of UK exports has been falling in recent years: in 2006, the EU accounted for 54% of UK exports and 57% of UK imports.

Looking at individual countries, the US is the UK’s largest trading partner. The UK exported £126 billion of goods and services to the US in 2020, 21% of all exports. This was just over two and a half times the value of UK exports to Germany, the UK’s second largest export market (£49 billion). 11 of the UK’s top 25 export markets in 2020 were EU member states, as were 12 of the top 25 countries from which the UK imports.

Trade with China has expanded rapidly in recent years. China now accounts for over 10% of UK imports compared with 2% in 1999 and is the UK’s third largest source of imports.

The Commonwealth accounts for around 9% of UK trade. This proportion has remained reasonably stable over the last decade. UK trade with the Commonwealth is heavily concentrated on five Commonwealth countries – India, Australia, Canada, Singapore and South Africa.

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