UK Trade

A technical analysis of the UK’s exports and imports

The UK is one of the world’s largest economies, with the 5th largest nominal GDP globally, at $3.12 billion or £2.27 billion. It also ranks 9th for its GDP in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP, which compares how much an economy can actually purchase regardless of what the nominal GDP is, and for the UK, this amounts to $3.17 trillion, or £2.31 billion, that can be or is currently being spent on imports, investment and other necessary activities for economic growth and public welfare. As a result of this massive purchasing power and GDP, it is a gargantuan trade centre in the global market regarding imports and exports. Its most significant trading partner in both is the United States, one of the United Kingdom’s longest-standing allies. This immense trading partnership has allowed the UK to foster a fantastic relationship with the world’s most powerful country. This connection is vital and has proven itself when the United States helped them win WWII, supplying them with weaponry and supplies and later joining in to support the final push against the Axis forces. These bonds are one of the biggest advantages of trade other than the apparent benefits from specialisation and various options for consumers. It can forge strong relationships with nations, and these ties will last very long and can range from helping each other through shortages or recessions to aiding your country in war, as given in the example between the UK and the US.

However, the US is only its largest single trade partner and the UK’s more minor, but many trade agreements with European countries mean that the EU exports and imports the most to and from the UK. The main reason for this is the European Union’s single market and cheap trade between member states. The UK’s membership meant that they could access this vast market until the decision to leave the EU was made and Brexit was initiated. Although this restricted trade and made it more difficult, it did not prevent it from happening, as the UK was still reliant on the EU for various imports such as fuel, as seen with the current gas crisis. In return, EU member states depend on the UK for goods such as technology, as the UK has a solid and innovative high-level technological industry. As a result, similar countries like Germany, well-known for their high-quality manufacturing, use UK exports in their products, like jet engines from British companies like Rolls Royce.

The diagrams below show which countries/ organisations the UK trades with the most and how many billion US$ this is done in.


As explained earlier, the EU commands most trade in both imports and exports with the UK. However, it can be seen that the United Kingdom exports more to the EU than it imports, specifically $71.9 billion more. This indicates how valuable the UK is to the European Union and why Brexit is bad for the UK and the EU, as mentioned in my previous chapter. Followed by the US, which alone accounts for a large proportion of trade, although inversely to the data for the EU, the US actually exports more to the UK than it imports from it, which highlights how much the UK can benefit from good trade associations – it does not have to sell an equal amount of goods back to satisfy the US.

[1] Data on UK exports and imports obtained from ‘Trade and Investment Core Statistics Book’


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