United Kingdom’s top 10 exports accounted for more than two-thirds (69.8%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, United Kingdom’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $2.778 trillion as of November 2016. Therefore, exports account for about 14.7% of total UK economic output.
From a continental perspective, 54.3% of UK exports by value are delivered to other European trade partners while 21.2% are sold to Asian importers. United Kingdom ships another 16.7% to North America and just 2.8% to Africa.
Given United Kingdom’s population of 64.4 million people, its total $408.9 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly 6,300 for every resident in that country.
United Kingdom’s unemployment rate was 4.8% as of December 2016 down from 5.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in UK global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from United Kingdom.
- Machinery including computers: US$60.3 billion (14.7% of total exports)
- Vehicles : $51.7 billion (12.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $32.6 billion (8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $27.5 billion (6.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $27.1 billion (6.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $26.2 billion (6.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $20.7 billion (5.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.2 billion (4.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $11.2 billion (2.7%)
- Organic chemicals: $10.8 billion (2.6%)
Vehicles were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 80.8% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.
In second place for improving export sales was the aerospace category which gained 72.7% led by significant international sales for airplanes and turbojets.
UK exported gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up 64.4% thanks to booming gold and platinum shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil led the decliners down by -34.5%.
The following types of UK 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 is 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.
- Collector items, art, antiques: US$4 billion (Down by -957.9% since 2009)
- Organic chemicals: $1.9 billion (Up by 16.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $1.8 billion (Down by -138.3%)
- Other chemical goods: $1.8 billion (Up by 166%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (Down by -1214.8%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $1.3 billion (Down by -25.5%)
- Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $830.5 million (Down by -1.1%)
- Arms, ammunition: $571.4 million (Down by -485.7%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $228.6 million (Up by 57.3%)
- Coated/laminated textile fabric: $101.0 million (Down by -48.5%)
United Kingdom has highly positive net exports in the international trade of paintings and sculptures. In turn, these cashflows indicate United Kingdom’s strong competitive advantages under the collector items, art and antiques product category.
Below are exports from United Kingdom that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country United Kingdom’s goods trail UK importer spending on foreign products. Overall, Great Britain incurred a -$227.2 billion deficit in 2016 up 18.1% from the -$192.4 billion negative trade balance in 2009.
- Gems, precious metals: -US$43 billion (Up by 12.8% since 2009)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$31.2 billion (Up by 23.7%)
- Vehicles : -$22.7 billion (Up by 28.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$20.4 billion (Up by 116.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$13 billion (Up by 26.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$7.5 billion (Down by -22.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$7.4 billion (Up by 14.6%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$6.5 billion (Down by -35.2%)
- Wood: -$6.1 billion (Up by 49.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$6 billion (Up by 33.5%)
United Kingdom has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for gold and silver under the gems and precious metals category.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate United Kingdom’s competitive disadvantages in the international gems and precious metals market, but also represent key opportunities for United Kingdom to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
UK Export Companies
Here are UK export companies ranking among the largest international trade players for the United Kingdom:
- BP (oil, gas)
- Rio Tinto Group (diversified metals, mining)
- GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals)
- British American Tobacco (tobacco)
- AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals)
- SABMiller (beverages)
- Anglo American PLC (diversified metals, mining)
- Johnson Matthey (chemicals)
- Mondi Group (paper, paper products)
- Smith & Nephew (medical equipment, supplies)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of UK exporters:
- Cadbury UK (chocolate bars, other chocolate preparations)
- Optivite International (formic acid, proprionic acid, animal feeds not for dog or cat)
- Allied Pickfords UK (forage products, corn, t-shirts)
- GKN Timet UK (titanium)
- Rothenberger UK (pipe/bolt cutters, propylene, miscellaneous tubes/pipes/hoses)
United Kingdom’s capital city is London, England.
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.
See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, United Kingdom’s Top Import Partners, Highest Value UK Export Products and UK Major Trade Balances with America
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 17, 2017
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 17, 2017
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 17, 2017
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 17, 2017
Wikipedia, List of Companies based in London. Accessed on February 17, 2017
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 23, 2016