Total value of UK trade rises by almost a quarter, according to government figures

Thu 20 Apr 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Map of UK with digital lines representing trade routes

The total value of UK trade in the 12 months to the end of February 2023 increased by 25.3% to £1,743.5bn, according to newly released government data.

The ‘UK Trade in Numbers’ report released by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) today (20 April) combines data from a range of sources, including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Department for International Trade, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The figures show that UK exports were up by 24.5% to £837bn and imports up 26.1% to £906.5bn in the 12 months to the end of February 2023.

There was a similar level of growth in exports to both the EU (up 24.3% to £340.1bn) and non-EU markets (up 24.8% to £475.1bn) in the four quarters to the end of December 2022.

EU trade

According to a recent report from the House of Commons Library, the EU as a whole is the UK’s largest trading partner and accounted for 43% of total trade in 2021.

The UK also saw its relative position in terms of exports slip from the world’s fifth biggest exporter in 2022 to seventh in 2021.

A total of 262,500 British businesses were exporting in 2020, representing 10.7% of businesses.

Export markets

The UK’s top export markets for goods and services for the four quarters to the end of September 2022 were:

US                          £161.5bn (20.8% of total exports)

Germany              £54.6bn (7%)

Netherlands       £54.3bn (7%)

Ireland                  £53.6bn (6.9%)

France                   £40.8bn (5.2%)

The top UK goods exports were:

Unspecified goods                                            £38bn

Mechanical power generators (intermediate)   £29.1bn

Crude oil                                                           £28.8bn

Medicinal and pharmaceutical products           £26.3bn

Cars                                                                  £26bn


In terms of imports, the leading markets were:

US                   £101.2bn (11.8%)

Germany         £79.1bn (9.2%)

China                £71.8bn (8.4%)

Netherlands      £58.2bn (6.8%)

Norway             £47.6bn (5.5%)

The top UK goods exported were:

Gas                        £47.3bn

Cars                        £36bn

Crude oil                 £32.9bn

Refined oil               £32.1bn

Medicinal & pharmaceutical products     £32.2bn

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The buoyant trade figures are somewhat at odds with recent reports that the UK’s exports are struggling compared to other G7 nations, as previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update.

However according to Catherine McBride, economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, such comparisons do not take into account the importance of services to the UK economy.

She points out that the UK exports almost the same value of services as goods, and is the second largest service exporter in the G7 after the US.

McBride cites data from the OECD showing that goods make up over 80% of the total exports of G7 countries Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan, over 70% of French and US exports, but only 51.6% of UK exports.