We invite you to explore the data shown above to understand the characteristics of UK trade. For the chart to the left, use the slider (or press play) to observe how patterns of trade have changed over time between the UK and key trading partners. Use the search function to add specific countries, although you may wish to remove others in order to properly see the trend over time. For the map, hover over each country to view the value of exports and imports, as well as the balance of trade. Countries highlighted in red are ones where the UK has a trade deficit, while green countries are ones in which the UK has a trade surplus.
Why is the chart interesting?
The chart to the left shows expanding trade with our key trading partners over time. Interestingly, where the UK experienced trade deficits with other countries, these seemed to worsen between 1997 and 2019. Our deficit of around £4.5bn with Germany in 1997 grew to almost £30bn 18 years later. Through the whole time period, the value of goods and services imported from Germany to the UK was higher than any other country.
The chart displays the substantial rise of China as a trading partner since 1997. Whilst just over £2.6bn worth of goods and services were imported from China in 1997, over £47bn worth were imported in 2019. This staggering rise of almost 1500% in 18 years has placed China second in terms of the value of imported goods, a position it has held since 2009 when it overtook the United States.
The USA is one success story for the UK in all of this. It has remained the UK’s largest export market through the time period of analysis, with the value of exports increasing almost threefold up to 2019.
Analysis up until this point has been focussed on 1997-2019, despite data for 2020 being available and displayed in the chart. Moving from 2019 to 2020 clearly shows a reduction in trade, highlighting the devastating effect of the COVID 19 pandemic
Assessing the world map also presents interesting points of analysis. The location of the UK’s trade deficits and surpluses show distinct regional trends, with the UK experiencing trade deficits with most European and Asian countries, whilst largely experiencing trade surpluses in North American and Africa.
By David Dike