European Union’s Top 10 Exports

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Boasting 28 members prior to the UK’s planned exit on March 29, 2019, the European Union (EU) shipped US$5.886 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. Pre-Brexit the EU is the world’s most powerful trade partner, responsible for a third (33.4%) 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, 70% of EU exports by value were delivered to European countries while 63% were sold to fellow EU member importers. The EU shipped another 14.4% worth of goods to Asia plus 8.6% to North America.

Smaller percentages arrived in Africa (2.8%), 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 $5.886 trillion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $11,364 for every resident in that economic entity.

The EU’s average unemployment rate was 7% as of May 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$826.4 billion (14.1% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $718.8 billion (12.3%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $557.4 billion (9.5%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $353.9 billion (6.0%)
  5. Mineral fuels including oil: $296.5 billion (5.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $240.6 billion (4.1%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $216.4 billion (3.7%)
  8. Organic chemicals: $146.5 billion (2.5%)
  9. Iron, steel: $143.2 billion (2.4%)
  10. Aircraft, spacecraft: $142.6 billion (2.4%)

The EU’s top 10 exports accounted for 62.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Iron and steel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 25.6% year over year since 2016.

In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil which rose 24.7% led by both processed and crude oils as well as petroleum gases.

Machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value via a 9.9% increase in value.

The sole decliner among the top 10 EU export categories was aircraft and spacecraft which fell by -1.1%.


Overall the EU achieved a $102.4 billion product trade surplus for 2017 down by -20% from 2016 to 2017 and retreating by -39.8% since 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$137.6 billion (Up by 6.6% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles: $122 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $89.2 billion (Up by 16.3%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $45.4 billion (Up by 27%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: $44.8 billion (Up by 33.3%)
  6. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $28.2 billion (Up by 13.8%)
  7. Perfumes, cosmetics: $22.0 billion (Up by 9.4%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $15.8 billion (Down by -4.8%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $15.3 billion (Down by -3.1%)
  10. Plastics, plastic articles: $14.5 billion (Down by -23.2%)

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 UK that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on the UK’s goods trail UK importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$287.2 billion (Up by 31.2% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$63 billion (Up by 22.1%)
  3. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$33.8 billion (Down by -2.1%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$25.1 billion (Down by -4.8%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: -$20.8 billion (Up by 30.2%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: -$19.7 billion (Up by 9%)
  7. Fish: -$17.5 billion (Up by 5.5%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: -$15 billion (Down by -61.8%)
  9. Toys, games: -$13.5 billion (Up by 15.6%)
  10. Organic chemicals: -$12.3 billion (Up by 759.9%)

The EU has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels category particular 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 ProductValue (US$)Change
1Cars$403.3 billion+7.2%
2Medication mixes in dosage$226.1 billion+7.3%
3Automobile parts/accessories$182.3 billion+10.4%
4Processed petroleum oils$177.5 billion+23.9%
5Phone devices incl. mobile phones $103.7 billion+14.9%
6Blood fractions (including antisera)$101.3 billion+20.2%
7Aircraft, spacecraft$93.8 billion-4%
8Computers, optical readers$78 billion+16%
9Turbo-jets$64.3 billion+19%
10Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$51.9 billion+6.9%
11Trucks$48.5 billion+10.9%
12Aircraft parts$47.7 billion+4%
13Integrated circuits/microassemblies$44.3 billion+10.4%
14Insulated wire/cable$38.9 billion+12.6%
15Taps, valves, similar appliances$38.2 billion+8.4%
16Lower-voltage switches, fuses$37.8 billion+10.4%
17Miscellaneous machinery$35.9 billion+14.5%
18Miscellaneous furniture$34.3 billion+6.4%
19Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$32.8 billion-0.073
20Crude oil$32.3 billion+40.6%
21Printing machinery$31.3 billion+8.9%
22Orthopedic appliances$31.2 billion+10%
23Gold (unwrought)$31.1 billion-1.6%
24Piston engine parts$31.1 billion+6.5%
25Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$30.8 billion+8%
26Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$30.4 billion+9.4%
27Liquid pumps and elevators$30.1 billion+9.1%
28Miscellaneous plastic items$30.1 billion+11.5%
29Air or vacuum pumps$29.9 billion+5.4%
30Tractors$29.7 billion+6.4%
31Engines (diesel)$29.5 billion+1.8%
32Rubber tires (new)$28.7 billion+5.6%
33Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$28.6 billion+11.3%
34TV receivers/monitors/projectors$27.8 billion+6.2%
35Electrical converters/power units$27.5 billion+10.2%
36Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$26.9 billion+10.7%
37Footwear (leather)$25.2 billion+7.2%
38Petroleum gases$25 billion+35.8%
39Wine $24.7 billion+11.5%
40Cheese, curd$23.4 billion+15.5%
41Machinery parts$23.3 billion+12.8%
42Cases, handbags, wallets$23 billion+13.6%
43Ethylene polymers$23 billion+6.7%
44Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$22.9 billion+13.7%
45Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$22.4 billion+8.5%
46Miscellaneous iron or steel items$22 billion+12.8%
47Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$21.9 billion+12.6%
48 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $21 billion+9.1%
49Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$20.8 billion+9%
50Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$20.1 billion+13%
51Electric motors, generators$20.1 billion+14.8%
52Jewelry$20 billion+9.1%
53Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$19.8 billion+7.9%
54Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$19.7 billion+9.3%
55Swine meat$19.6 billion+10.3%
56Temperature-change machines$19.5 billion+16%
57Computer parts, accessories$19.2 billion+4.3%
58Piston engines$18.8 billion+11.4%
59Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$18.7 billion+5.2%
60Physical/chemical analysis tools$18.5 billion+13.3%
61Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$18.2 billion-0.012
62Other measuring/testing machines$18.1 billion+12.8%
63Other food preparations$17.9 billion+10.9%
64Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$17.7 billion+9.7%
65Chemical industry products/residuals$17.7 billion+12.3%
66Iron or steel scrap$17.4 billion+40.5%
67Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$17.4 billion+14.9%
68Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$17.4 billion+20.5%
69Coated paper$17.3 billion+3.7%
70Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$17.2 billion+39.3%
71Unrecorded sound media$17.1 billion-0.5%
72Other organic cleaning preparations$16.7 billion+8%
73Electrical energy$16.6 billion+21.2%
74Propylene/olefin polymers$16.5 billion+18.7%
75Lifting/loading machinery$16.4 billion+16.5%
76Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$16.3 billion+9.7%
77Electric water heaters, hair dryers$16.1 billion+9%
78Regulate/control instruments$15.3 billion+11.6%
79Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$15.3 billion+2.9%
80Refrigerators, freezers$15.3 billion+7.9%
81Electrical lighting/signaling equipment$15.2 billion+9.9%
82Iron/steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$15.1 billion+13.9%
83Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$14.9 billion+8%
84Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$14.6 billion+8.4%
85Flat-rolled stainless steel items$14.5 billion+19.6%
86Ball, roller bearings$14.5 billion+10.7%
87Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$14.5 billion+13%
88Trailers$14.4 billion+13.2%
89Base metal mountings, fittings$14.1 billion+10.4%
90Sawn wood$14.1 billion+10.4%
91Rubber/plastic article making machines$14 billion+12.5%
92Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$14 billion+12.7%
93Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$14 billion+11.8%
94Other diagnostic/lab reagents$14 billion+6.5%
95Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators)$13.9 billion+13.8%
96Coal tar oils (high-temp distillation)$13.7 billion+82.2%
97Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$13.6 billion+7.4%
98Flour/meal/starch/malt preparations$13.1 billion+12.5%
99Machinery for making semi-conductors$13.1 billion+34.7%
100Vulcanized rubber items$13.1 billion+10.9%
101Aluminum (unwrought)$13 billion+20.3%
102Perfumes, toilet waters$13 billion+9.3%
103Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$13 billion+8.6%
104Cruise/cargo ships, barges$13 billion+2.3%
105Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$12.9 billion+24.5%
106T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$12.7 billion+10.4%
107Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$12.7 billion+11.7%
108Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$12.3 billion+4.8%
109Electric storage batteries$12.1 billion+23.6%
110Harvest/threshing machinery$12 billion+14.9%
111Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$11.7 billion+5.7%
112Footwear (textile)$11.7 billion+22.2%
113Paper containers, cellulose wadding$11.6 billion+9.7%
114Electric generating sets, converters$11.4 billion-11.8%
115Fresh or chilled beef$11.4 billion+8.2%
116Air conditioners$11.3 billion+9.3%
117X-ray equipment$11.2 billion+6.7%
118Non-alcoholic drinks not water/juice/milk$11 billion+11.7%
119Wheat$10.9 billion-11%
120Fork-lift trucks$10.6 billion+15.5%
121Poultry meat$10.5 billion+7.8%
122Liquid/gas checking instruments$10.3 billion+7.1%
123Platinum (unwrought)$10.2 billion+33.1%
124Table games, bowling equipment$10.2 billion+31.3%
125Cellulose fiber paper$10.2 billion+6.2%
126Miscellaneous engines, motors$10 billion+20.1%
127Interchangeable hand/machine tools$9.9 billion+14.9%
128Other machine parts, accessories$9.8 billion+12.9%
129Refined copper, unwrought alloys$9.6 billion+23.2%
130Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$9.6 billion+11.8%
131Amino-resins$9.6 billion+24.8%
132Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$9.5 billion+5.5%
133Uncoated paper for writing/printing$9.5 billion-4.2%
134TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$9.5 billion+5.7%
135Cyclic hydrocarbons$9.4 billion+20.5%
136Electrical machinery$9.4 billion+6.1%
137Miscellaneous machinery$9.4 billion+5.3%
138Miscellaneous aluminum items$9.3 billion+10.2%
139Miscellaneous iron/steel tubes, pipes$9.3 billion+19.2%
140Radar, radio communication items$9.3 billion+22.3%
141Unglazed ceramic tiles$9.2 billion+251.2%
142Coffee$9.1 billion+9%
143Microphones/headphones/amps$9.1 billion+19.1%
144Medication mixes not in dosage$9 billion+29.2%
145Spray/disperse mechanical appliances$8.9 billion+12.1%
146Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$8.7 billion+6.4%
147Miscellaneous heterocyclics$8.7 billion-14.5%
148Printed books, brochures$8.6 billion+6.5%
149Pneumatic hand tool$8.6 billion+9.8%
150Biodiesel$8.5 billion+16.3%
151Aluminum bars/rods$8.5 billion+16.6%
152Iron or steel tubes, pipes$8.3 billion+9.1%
153Whole fish (fresh)$8.3 billion+3.4%
154Copper waste, scrap$8.2 billion+27.4%
155Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$8.1 billion+8.4%
156Malt beer$8 billion+1.6%
157Print/write/draw inks$8 billion+2.4%
158Footwear (rubber or plastic)$8 billion+9.2%
159Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$8 billion+10.7%
160Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$7.9 billion+22.3%
161Acyclic hydrocarbons$7.9 billion+27.6%
162Motorcycles$7.9 billion+15.4%
163Sort/screen/washing machinery$7.8 billion+7.3%
164Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$7.7 billion+11.2%
165Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$7.5 billion+7.4%
166Vinyl chloride polymers$7.5 billion+14.9%
167Miscellaneous live plants$7.4 billion+26.3%
168Other meat (preserved/prepared)$7.4 billion+10.7%
169Copper wire$7.4 billion+12.8%
170Sports equipment$7.4 billion+12.1%
171Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$7.4 billion+8.9%
172TV/radio/radar device parts$7.4 billion+5.9%
173Hair preparations$7.3 billion+9.3%
174Unconcentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$7.3 billion+27.4%
175Polyamides$7.3 billion+19.6%
176Uncoated paper$7.2 billion+13.8%
177Electric motor parts$7.2 billion+4.4%
178Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$7.2 billion+12%
179Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$7.2 billion+3.8%
180Electric ignition/start equipment$7.1 billion+5.1%
181Olive oil$7.1 billion+9.4%
182Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$6.9 billion+21.1%
183Styrene polymers$6.9 billion+20.3%
184Fruit and vegetable juices$6.9 billion+9.6%
185Special purpose vehicles$6.8 billion+8%
186Iron or steel pipe fittings$6.8 billion+7.5%
187Acrylic polymers$6.8 billion+11.2%
188Coated/laminated non-wovens$6.8 billion+12.7%
189Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$6.6 billion+11.9%
190Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections$6.6 billion+15.7%
191Women's coats, jackets not knit or crochet$6.5 billion+13.1%
192Amino-compounds (oxygen)$6.5 billion-14%
193Moulding boxes/base$6.4 billion+11.3%
194Derricks, cranes$6.4 billion+14.4%
195Butter$6.4 billion+46.7%
196Acyclic alcohols$6.4 billion+27.9%
197Miscellaneous printed items$6.3 billion-1.8%
198Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$6.3 billion-7.4%
199Plastic builders' items$6.3 billion+12.1%
200Uncoated kraft paper$6.2 billion+14.6%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of $4.319 trillion or almost three-quarters (73.6%) by value for all products exported from the EU during 2017.

See also 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 July 26, 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