United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports

United Kingdom’s Top Exports

by Flagpictures.org

Technically the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the western European country typically called the United Kingdom shipped US$445 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017.

That dollar amount represents a -18.8% setback since 2013 but an 8.1% uptick from one year earlier in 2016.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, United Kingdom’s exported goods plus services represent 30.1% of total UK economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 54.4% of UK exports by value were delivered to other European trade partners while 22.6% were sold to Asian importers. United Kingdom shipped another 15% worth to North America.

Smaller percentages arrived in Africa (2.5%), Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (1.6%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%).

Given United Kingdom’s population of 64.8 million people, its total $444.5 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly 6,900 for every resident in that country.

United Kingdom’s unemployment rate was 4.3% as of November 2017 down from 4.8% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

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

  1. Machinery including computers: US$68 billion (15.3% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $53.7 billion (12.1%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $35.6 billion (8%)
  4. Gems, precious metals: $32.8 billion (7.4%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: $32.8 billion (7.4%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $28.6 billion (6.4%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $21.1 billion (4.7%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $18.1 billion (4.1%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: $12 billion (2.7%)
  10. Organic chemicals: $10.3 billion (2.3%)

United Kingdom’s top 10 exports accounted for more than two-thirds (70.4%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing export product among the top 10 categories, up 38.4% from 2016 to 2017 led by increased international sales revenue for UK’s crude oil, refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases.

In second place for improving export sales was the gems and precious metals category which gained 15.2% spearheaded by significant international sales of gold, platinum and diamonds.

UK exported gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up 12.8%, trailed by a 10% increase for exported plastics and plastic articles.


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.

  1. Aircraft, spacecraft: US$6.2 billion (Up by 238.9% since 2016)
  2. Collector items, art, antiques: $3.7 billion (Up by 9.3%)
  3. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.9 billion (Up by 18.3%)
  4. Other chemical goods: $1.4 billion (Down by -19.1%)
  5. Books, newspapers, pictures: $1.3 billion (Up by 2.5%)
  6. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $720.9 million (Down by -12.4%)
  7. Organic chemicals: $570.1 million (Down by -55.1%)
  8. Iron, steel: $497.8 million (Up by 58.7%)
  9. Arms, ammunition: $382.1 million (Up by 308.8%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $283.9 million (Reversing a -$337.7 million deficit)

United Kingdom has highly positive net exports in the international trade of aircraft or spacecraft parts and accessories. In turn, these cashflows indicate United Kingdom’s strong competitive advantages under the aircraft and spacecraft product category.


Overall the United Kingdom incurred a -$199.2 billion trade deficit during 2017, down -11.4% from -$224.9 billion in red ink in 2016.

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.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: -US$35.3 billion (Up by 14.9% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles : -$19 billion (Down by -16.7%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: -$17 billion (Down by -59.9%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: -$16.2 billion (Up by 15.9%)
  5. Machinery including computers: -$14.4 billion (Down by -8.6%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$7.7 billion (Down by -14.9%)
  7. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$7.6 billion (Up by 0.7%)
  8. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$6.5 billion (Down by -15.1%)
  9. Wood: -$6.4 billion (Up by 5.1%)
  10. Plastics, plastic articles: -$6.3 billion (Up by 2.4%)

United Kingdom has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mobile phones under the electrical machinery and equipment category.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate United Kingdom’s competitive disadvantages in the international electronics 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:

  • Anglo American PLC (diversified metals, mining)
  • AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals)
  • BP (oil, gas)
  • British American Tobacco (tobacco)
  • GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals)
  • Johnson Matthey (chemicals)
  • Mondi Group (paper, paper products)
  • Rio Tinto Group (diversified metals, mining)
  • SABMiller (beverages)
  • Smith & Nephew (medical equipment, supplies)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of UK exporters:

  • Allied Pickfords UK (forage products, corn, t-shirts)
  • Cadbury UK (chocolate bars, other chocolate preparations)
  • GKN Timet UK (titanium)
  • Optivite International (formic acid, proprionic acid, animal feeds not for dog or cat)
  • 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 Trading Partners, Highest Value UK Export Products and UK Major Trade Balances with America

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 17, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 17, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 17, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 17, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies based in London. Accessed on February 17, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 23, 2016