EU – The Biggest Import Market in the World


There is no way to say it better than the EU: “The EU is the largest economy in the world, the biggest exporter and importer, the leading investor and recipient of investments and the biggest aid donor. The Union is one of the world’s most outward-oriented economies and intends to remain so.

But there are also very practical reasons for focusing on the trade with EU and the rest of Europe:

  • You can rely on the quality of the products delivered. The european countries have long history of industrial development, investments in R&D, prepared labour force, developed infrastructure.
  • It is relatively close and easy to travel and access. One can visit its supplier or client, see the production settings, check the quality control procedures, etc.
  • There is a common legal framework that protects in a similar manner the interests of the parties in an export-import deal. This provides additional security and guarantees in the trade.
  • Both buyers and sellers can protect their Intellectual Property rights, and protect their brands from copying.  

Trade with the rest of the world doubled from 1999 to 2010, and currently over three quarters of imports into EU pay no, or reduced, duties.

Where duties are still payable, the average rate for 2013 was just 2.3 % for industrial products and 3.6 % for all goods overall.  The EU is the biggest trading partner for 59 countries. In comparison, the figure for China is 37 and for the US is 23.


European external trade in goods and services accounts for 34 % of EU GDP – four percentage points above the US. As a major market, EU imports as many agricultural products from developing countries as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, with a comparable total population, combined. “

The EU is the world’s biggest trader, accounting for 16.5% of the world's imports and exports.

The EU is also the world's biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and it is the biggest import market for over 100 countries.

It is also the world's largest single market area. Both European and international consumers and investors enjoy the many benefits of a simplified system – in an area where people, goods, services and money can move freely.


The trade within the EU has a huge impact on most of its members.

·         In 2016, the average share of the export to EU in the total exports of its members was 64%.

·         Twenty Member States have three partners within the EU accounting for the majority (over 50 %) of their intra-EU exports.

·         For a further eight the share of the top three intra-EU export partners is between 39 % and 50 %. The top-3 partners are often large countries but also quite frequently countries in close geographical proximity.


There were almost 20 million enterprises active within the EU-27 in 2005 in the non-financial business economy. The overwhelming majority of these (99.8 %) were SMEs, with less than 250 persons employed.




EU by Topic – Trade – at

The EU Explained : Trade – Free trade is a source of economic growth, 2016

Enterprises by size class - overview of SMEs in the EU, Eurostat, 31/2008

Intra-EU trade in goods - recent trends, Eurostat