European Union’s Top 10 Exports

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Featuring 28 members prior to the United Kingdom’s planned exit on March 29, 2019, the European Union (EU) shipped US$5.719 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. Pre-Brexit the EU is the world’s most powerful trade partner, responsible for almost a third (32.5%) of globally exported goods valued at $17,581 trillion.

The EU’s $5.886 trillion in export sales during 2017 reflects a -3.9% decline since 2013 but a 9.6% year-over-year uptick from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the EU’s exported goods plus services represent 43.9% of total EU economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 69.7% of EU exports by value were delivered to European countries while 62.6% were sold to fellow EU member importers. The EU shipped another 14.7% worth of goods to Asia plus 8.8% to North America. Smaller percentages arrived in Africa (2.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.6%) and Oceania (0.8%) led by Australia.

Given the European Union’s population of 516.2 million people, its total $5.719 trillion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $11,100 for every resident in that economic entity.

The EU’s average unemployment rate was 6.7% as of October 2018 per Trading Economics.

European Union’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in EU global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the EU.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$801.2 billion (14% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $714.8 billion (12.5%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $519.8 billion (9.1%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $344.3 billion (6%)
  5. Mineral fuels including oil: $270.6 billion (4.7%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $238.2 billion (4.2%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $214.4 billion (3.7%)
  8. Aircraft, spacecraft: $141.8 billion (2.5%)
  9. Organic chemicals: $141 billion (2.5%)
  10. Iron, steel: $141 billion (2.5%)

The EU’s top 10 exports accounted for 61.7% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Iron and steel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 25.4% year over year since 2016.

In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil which rose 25.2% led by both processed and crude oils as well as petroleum gases.

Pharmaceuticals posted the third-fastest gain in value via its 10.2% increase in value.

The sole decliner among the top 10 EU export categories was aircraft and spacecraft which fell by -1.7%.


Overall the EU achieved a $77.9 billion product trade surplus for 2017 down by -28.1% from 2016 to 2017 and retreating by -49.8% over the 5-year period starting in 2013.

The following types of EU product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$127.9 billion (Up by 4.9% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles: $122.3 billion (Up by 2.2%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $89 billion (Up by 23.4%)
  4. Aircraft, spacecraft: $45 billion (Up by 33.2%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $44.8 billion (Up by 28.8%)
  6. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $28.2 billion (Up by 13.7%)
  7. Perfumes, cosmetics: $21.9 billion (Up by 9.1%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $15.7 billion (Down by -5.3%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $15.4 billion (Down by -3%)
  10. Paper, paper items: $14.6 billion (Up by 6.9%)

The has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery-related products. In turn, these cashflows indicate the UK’s strong competitive advantages under the machinery including computers product category.


Below are exports from the EU that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on EU-exported goods trail the European Union’s spending on imported products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -$291 billion (Up by 30.2% from 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$69.7 billion (Up by 26.5%)
  3. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$32.8 billion (Down by -0.5%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$24.2 billion (Down by -2.8%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: -$21.3 billion (Up by 33.2%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: -$19.6 billion (Up by 8.7%)
  7. Fish: -$17.4 billion (Up by 5.2%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: -$15.4 billion (Down by -60.8%)
  9. Organic chemicals: -$13.6 billion (Up by 527.5%)
  10. Toys, games: -$13.5 billion (Up by 14.4%)

The EU has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels category particular for crude oil and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases and coal.


EU Export Companies

Twenty-three corporations with headquarters located in the EU rank among the top 100 listed under Forbes Global 2000 for 2017.

Below are selected examples of top EU companies engaged in exports-related activities.

  • Royal Dutch Shell (oil, gas)
  • Volkswagen Group (automobiles)
  • Total (oil, gas)
  • Daimler (automobiles)
  • BP (oil, gas)
  • BMW Group (automobiles)
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev (beverages)
  • Siemens (industrial/technology conglomerate)
  • Enel (electricity, gas)
  • BASF (diversified chemicals)

Headquarters for the European Union are located in Belgium’s capital city, Brussels.

EU Top 200 Most Valuable Exported Products

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, cars represent the EU’s most valuable exported product. In second place were medication mixes in dosage followed by automobile parts and accessories, processed petroleum oils and mobile phones.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from European Union members during 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankEU Export Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$400.7 billion+7.5%
2Medication mixes in dosage$222.9 billion+7.2%
3Automobile parts/accessories$182 billion+10.1%
4Processed petroleum oils$177.7 billion+23.9%
5Blood fractions (including antisera)$99.3 billion+29%
6Aircraft, spacecraft$93.6 billion-4.4%
7Phone system devices including smartphones $78.9 billion+7.6%
8Computers, optical readers$62.5 billion+12.9%
9Turbo-jets$61.5 billion+14.5%
10Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$51 billion+6.9%
11Trucks$47.9 billion+10.9%
12Aircraft parts$47.7 billion+4.2%
13Integrated circuits/microassemblies$41.1 billion+7.7%
14Insulated wire/cable$38.6 billion+12.2%
15Taps, valves, similar appliances$38.1 billion+8.1%
16Lower-voltage switches, fuses$37.7 billion+9.9%
17Miscellaneous machinery$35.8 billion+13.9%
18Miscellaneous furniture$34.2 billion+5.5%
19Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$32 billion-6%
20Gold (unwrought)$31.2 billion-1.6%
21Orthopedic appliances$31.2 billion+9.3%
22Piston engine parts$31 billion+6.1%
23Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$30.7 billion+7.4%
24Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$30.2 billion+8.3%
25Liquid pumps and elevators$30.1 billion+8.6%
26Miscellaneous plastic items$29.8 billion+9.9%
27Tractors$29.7 billion+5.5%
28Air or vacuum pumps$29.7 billion+4.9%
29Engines (diesel)$29.6 billion+2%
30Printing machinery$29.5 billion+6.7%
31Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$28.6 billion+10.9%
32Rubber tires (new)$28.5 billion+5.1%
33Electrical converters/power units$27 billion+9.4%
34Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$26.9 billion+10.3%
35TV receivers/monitors/projectors$25.6 billion+5.7%
36Footwear (leather)$25.1 billion+6.2%
37Petroleum gases$25 billion+35.6%
38Wine $24.6 billion+11%
39Cheese, curd$23.4 billion+14.3%
40Crude oil$23.2 billion+44.8%
41Machinery parts$23.2 billion+11.4%
42Ethylene polymers$22.9 billion+6.4%
43Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$22.8 billion+12.9%
44Cases, handbags, wallets$22.7 billion+12.8%
45Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$22.4 billion+8.2%
46Miscellaneous iron or steel items$21.8 billion+11.2%
47Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$21.6 billion+9.6%
48 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $21 billion+8.1%
49Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$20.8 billion+7.3%
50Jewelry$20 billion+9.1%
51Electric motors, generators$19.8 billion+14.5%
52Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$19.7 billion+8%
53Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$19.7 billion+12.2%
54Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$19.7 billion+7.5%
55Swine meat$19.6 billion+9.4%
56Temperature-change machines$19.5 billion+14.8%
57Piston engines$18.8 billion+11.1%
58Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$18.7 billion+4.9%
59Physical/chemical analysis tools$18.4 billion+12.5%
60Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$18.2 billion-1.1%
61Other measuring/testing machines$18 billion+12.3%
62Other food preparations$17.8 billion+8.1%
63Computer parts, accessories$17.6 billion+4.4%
64Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$17.6 billion+8.5%
65Chemical industry products/residuals$17.5 billion+11.5%
66Iron or steel scrap$17.4 billion+38.9%
67Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$17.4 billion+20.4%
68Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$17.2 billion+13%
69Coated paper$17.2 billion+3.5%
70Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$17.2 billion+38.9%
71Other organic cleaning preparations$16.6 billion+7.4%
72Electrical energy$16.6 billion+27.7%
73Lifting/loading machinery$16.4 billion+15.1%
74Propylene/olefin polymers$16.3 billion+17.1%
75Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$16.3 billion+9.7%
76Unrecorded sound media$16.2 billion-4.5%
77Electric water heaters, hair dryers$16 billion+8.2%
78Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$15.3 billion+2.7%
79Regulate/control instruments$15.3 billion+11.3%
80Refrigerators, freezers$15.2 billion+7.4%
81Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$15.2 billion+9.8%
82Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$14.9 billion+12.8%
83Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$14.5 billion+12.4%
84Ball, roller bearings$14.4 billion+10.4%
85Flat-rolled stainless steel items$14.4 billion+19.1%
86Trailers$14.4 billion+11.3%
87Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$14.3 billion+5.9%
88Sawn wood$14.1 billion+9.3%
89Base metal mountings, fittings$14 billion+9.7%
90Rubber/plastic article making machines$14 billion+12.4%
91Other diagnostic/lab reagents$13.9 billion+5.7%
92Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$13.9 billion+11.4%
93Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$13.8 billion+6.9%
94Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$13.8 billion+11.8%
95Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$13.6 billion+82.3%
96Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$13.5 billion+5.8%
97Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$13.2 billion+11.4%
98Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$13.1 billion+11%
99Vulcanized rubber items$13 billion+10.4%
100Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$13 billion+7.7%
101Cruise/cargo ships, barges$13 billion+9.4%
102Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$12.8 billion+24.3%
103Perfumes, toilet waters$12.8 billion+8.1%
104Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$12.7 billion+10.9%
105T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$12.5 billion+9.4%
106Machinery for making semi-conductors$12.4 billion+27.9%
107Harvest/threshing machinery$12.1 billion+13.8%
108Electric storage batteries$11.9 billion+22.4%
109Footwear (textile)$11.6 billion+21.2%
110Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$11.6 billion+4%
111Paper containers, cellulose wadding$11.6 billion+8.3%
112Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$11.5 billion+5.6%
113Air conditioners$11.2 billion+8.4%
114Fresh or chilled beef$11.1 billion+6.6%
115Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$11 billion+9.2%
116X-ray equipment$11 billion+7.8%
117Electric generating sets, converters$11 billion-15.1%
118Wheat$10.9 billion-11.2%
119Fork-lift trucks$10.5 billion0.14
120Poultry meat$10.5 billion+5.8%
121Liquid/gas checking instruments$10.3 billion+6%
122Platinum (unwrought)$10.3 billion+33%
123Cellulose fiber paper$10.2 billion+5.9%
124Miscellaneous engines, motors$10 billion+19.6%
125Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$9.6 billion+11.6%
126Amino-resins$9.6 billion+24.2%
127Interchangeable hand/machine tools$9.5 billion+12.7%
128Uncoated paper for writing/printing$9.5 billion-4.5%
129Other machine parts, accessories$9.5 billion+12%
130Cyclic hydrocarbons$9.4 billion+19.6%
131Industrial preparation machinery$9.4 billion+3.3%
132Aluminum (unwrought)$9.3 billion+14.2%
133Miscellaneous aluminum items$9.3 billion0.092
134Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$9.2 billion+18.4%
135Radar, radio communication items$9.2 billion+21.9%
136Miscellaneous machinery$9.2 billion+2%
137Unglazed ceramic hearth/wall flags, tiles$9.2 billion+250.6%
138Coffee$9.1 billion+8.2%
139Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$9.1 billion+2.6%
140Unglazed ceramic tiles$8.9 billion+4.7%
141Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$8.8 billion+10%
142Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$8.7 billion+6.1%
143Printed books, brochures$8.6 billion+5.2%
144Pneumatic hand tool$8.5 billion+8.8%
145Miscellaneous heterocyclics$8.5 billion-15%
146Biodiesel$8.5 billion+14.7%
147Aluminum bars/rods$8.4 billion0.16
148Iron or steel tubes, pipes$8.3 billion+8.1%
149Refined copper, unwrought alloys$8.2 billion+25.5%
150Whole fish (fresh)$8.2 billion+1.9%
151Copper waste, scrap$8.2 billion+26.7%
152Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$8.1 billion+7.3%
153Acyclic hydrocarbons$8 billion+29.5%
154Malt beer$8 billion+0.8%
155Print/write/draw inks$8 billion+2%
156Footwear (rubber or plastic)$7.9 billion+8.5%
157Microphones/headphones/amps$7.9 billion+16.6%
158Motorcycles$7.8 billion+14.9%
159Sort/screen/washing machinery$7.8 billion+6.4%
160Table games, bowling equipment$7.8 billion+40.3%
161Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$7.7 billion+22.1%
162Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$7.6 billion+10.3%
163Vinyl chloride polymers$7.5 billion+14.5%
164Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$7.4 billion+6.7%
165Copper wire$7.4 billion+12.7%
166Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$7.4 billion+8.7%
167Miscellaneous live plants$7.4 billion+7.8%
168Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$7.4 billion+7.7%
169TV/radio/radar device parts$7.3 billion+5.6%
170Sports equipment$7.3 billion+9.7%
171Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$7.3 billion+26.7%
172Hair preparations$7.3 billion+8%
173Polyamides$7.3 billion+19.3%
174Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$7.2 billion+10%
175Uncoated paper$7.2 billion+13.5%
176Electric motor parts$7.2 billion+4.2%
177Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$7.2 billion+3.7%
178Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$7.1 billion+10.9%
179Electric ignition/start equipment$7.1 billion+4.6%
180Olive oil$7.1 billion+9.4%
181Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$6.9 billion+20.9%
182Styrene polymers$6.9 billion+20%
183Special purpose vehicles$6.8 billion+6.3%
184Iron or steel pipe fittings$6.8 billion+6.2%
185Coated/laminated non-wovens$6.7 billion+11.8%
186Acrylic polymers$6.7 billion+10.7%
187Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections$6.6 billion+15%
188Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$6.6 billion+7.2%
189Fruit and vegetable juices$6.5 billion+6.7%
190Moulding boxes/base$6.4 billion+10.8%
191Derricks, cranes$6.4 billion+13.6%
192Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$6.4 billion+11.7%
193Amino-compounds (oxygen)$6.4 billion-14.7%
194Butter$6.3 billion+44.3%
195Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$6.3 billion-7.9%
196Miscellaneous printed items$6.3 billion+26.3%
197Plastic builders' items$6.2 billion0.108
198Miscellaneous printed items, photos$6.2 billion-2.4%
199Uncoated kraft paper$6.1 billion+14.2%
200Railway or tram miscellaneous parts$6.1 billion+4.1%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of $4.218 trillion or almost three-quarters (73.8%) by value for all products exported from the EU during 2017.

See also Major Exports by Continent, Top EU Export Countries, Top EU Import Countries and United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 26, 2018

Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on July 26, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 26, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 22, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 26, 2018

The World Factbook, Europe: European Union. Accessed on July 26, 2018

Wikipedia, European Union. Accessed on July 26, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of the European Union. Accessed on July 26, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Brussels, Belgium. Accessed on July 26, 2018