According to the most recent UK government data of 2020, the UK’s largest trading partners are as follows:
Table 1. UK Largest Trading Partners
The European Union
Of the top 25 largest trading partners for the UK, 11 are members of the European Union. As such the European Union is the largest trading partner of the UK.
In 2020, the EU accounted for 42% (£251 billion) of all UK exports and 50% (£301 billion) of all UK imports. While exports fell by 14% and imports fell by 19% compared to the previous year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the share that the EU had of UK trade in 2020 was broadly consistent with the recent past.
While the EU is by far the UK’s largest trading partner, the total amount of annual trade that the UK does with the EU has declined slightly over the last 15-20 years. To illustrate this, the total volume of UK exports taken up by the EU in 2006 was 54%. For imports, it was 57%.
The United States
The USA is the largest single country with which the UK trades.
While the share that the USA had of total UK trade in 2020 was significant (accounting for 21% (£126 billion) of exports and 12.5% (£74.8 billion) of imports) and helps to demonstrate the importance of the UK’s trade relationship with the US, this is actually less than in previous years. Exports decreased by 10% (£14.1 billion) between 2019 and 2020 and imports decreased by 8.6% (£7 billion) in the same time period.
The UK’s trading relationship with the US has been one of significance to the UK for a long period of time and looks like it will remain to be so into the future.
The UK also has an important trading relationship with China.
Exports to China account for 4% (£25.9 billion) of the UK’s total exports and 10% (£56.9 billion) of the UK’s total imports. While the trading history that the UK has with China is not as strong as with Europe or the US, the trade relationship that the UK and China have is very significant nowadays and looks set to increase in the future.
Much of the growth in trade with China is attributed to growth in the imports of Chinese manufactured goods. The main goods that the UK exports to China are vehicles, fuels, machinery, life science products, and electronic equipment.
The statistical data for the UK’s trade relationship with China in 2020 is in line with other recent data, given that China’s ability to trade was not significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada, India, Singapore, and Australia are all commonwealth countries that feature in the list of the UK’s top 25 trading partners. Another commonwealth country, South Africa, while it was not one of the UK’s 25 largest trading partners, also has a significant trading relationship with the UK. These five countries account for 74% of UK exports to the commonwealth and 74% of imports from the commonwealth.
While the UK’s trading relationship with commonwealth countries changed after the UK joined the European Single Market, the significance of the trading relationship that the UK has with the commonwealth can in part be attributed to the historical ties that exist.
As a whole, in 2020, trade with commonwealth countries accounted for 8.7% of the UK’s total trade with a 4.3% (£25.9 billion) share of exports and a 9.5% (£56.9 billion) share of imports. This figure is in line with the historical trend with trade with commonwealth countries consistently accounting for around 10% of UK trade for the last 15-20 years.
Hong Kong, which was formerly a commonwealth country but is now a self-autonomous region of China, has a trade relationship with the UK that is of a similar size to Japan’s, which we will discuss later. In terms of volume, UK exports to Hong Kong in 2020 amounted to £12.5 billion and imports amounted to £10.5 billion.
The total amount of trade that the UK does with Switzerland is similar to the amount that is done with Italy and Spain. As such, the trade relationship is relatively large and is an important one to the UK.
In 2020, total exports to Switzerland amounted to 4% of the UK’s total (£23.9 billion) and imports amounted to 1.7% (£10 billion). As such, Switzerland is a particularly important nation for UK exports. Some of our main exports to Switzerland in 2020 were non-ferrous metals, jewelry, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, and works of art.
As the UK’s 11th largest trading partner, trade with Japan is very significant to the UK.
In 2020, total exports to Japan amounted to £11.9 billion and imports amounted to £12.4 billion. These figures are roughly in line with the figures for the last ten years and demonstrate the continued strong trade relationship that the UK and Japan have.
On 23rd October 2020, the UK and Japan signed a free trade agreement that could potentially enhance this trade relationship. However, it is debated whether this agreement is an improvement on the agreement that the UK had with Japan under the EU.
The Biggest Countries for UK Exports
The top 25 countries for UK exports are as follows:
Table 2. Countries that UK exports with
The Biggest Countries for UK Imports
The top 25 countries for UK imports are as follows:
Table 3. Countries that UK imports with
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