United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports

United Kingdom’s Top Exports

by Flagpictures.org

Technically named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom shipped US$487.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -5.3% slowdown since 2014 but a 9.5% expansion from one year earlier in 2017.

From a continental perspective, 54.2% of UK exports by value were delivered to other European trade partners with 46.6% going to European Union members. Another 23.1% was sold to Asian importers while the United Kingdom shipped 15.2% worth to North America. Smaller percentages arrived in Africa (2.3%), Oceania (1.5%) led by Australia and New Zealand then Latin America (1.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given United Kingdom’s population of 65.1 million people, its total $487.1 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly 7,400 for every resident in the western European country.

In macroeconomic terms, the United Kingdom’s total exported goods represent 16% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($3.038 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 16% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 18.4% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for the UK’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Britain also provided $376.2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 12.4% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a geographical entity’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. The United Kingdom’s unemployment rate was 3.8% as of April 2019 down from 4.2% 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 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from United Kingdom.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$72.5 billion (15% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $55.4 billion (11.4%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $47.5 billion (9.8%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $45.1 billion (9.3%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: $30.1 billion (6.2%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $29.4 billion (6.1%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $19.7 billion (4.1%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $19.2 billion (4%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: $12.8 billion (2.6%)
  10. Organic chemicals: $12.4 billion (2.6%)

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of UK’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.

United Kingdom’s top 10 exports accounted for more than two-thirds (71.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Gems and precious metals was the fastest-growing export product among the UK’s top 10 categories, up 48% from 2017 to 2018 led by increased international sales of gold, silver and platinum.

In second place for improving export sales was the mineral fuels including oil category which gained 28.7% spearheaded by global sales of crude and refined petroleum oils.

UK exports of organic chemicals posted the third-fastest gain in value up 28%, trailed by a 10.8% increase for exported machinery including computers.


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 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. Aircraft, spacecraft: US$7.9 billion (Up by 33.3% since 2017)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $7.3 billion (Reversing a -$16.9 billion deficit)
  3. Collector items, art, antiques: $3.9 billion (Up by 5.1%)
  4. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $2.2 billion (Up by 11.1%)
  5. Books, newspapers, pictures: $1.4 billion (Up by 4.2%)
  6. Other chemical goods: $881.7 million (Down by -29.4%)
  7. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $793 million (Down by -7.8%)
  8. Iron, steel: $763 million (Down by -22.1%)
  9. Organic chemicals: $664 million (Up by 238%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $377.2 million (Up by 75.6%)

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 -$182.6 billion trade deficit during 2018, down -8.4% from -$199.3 billion in red ink one year earlier.

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$34.7 billion (Up by 9.6% since 2017)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$23.1 billion (Up by 39.1%)
  3. Vehicles: -$20.2 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  4. Machinery including computers: -$13.6 billion (Down by -6.4%)
  5. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$9.1 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  6. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$7.7 billion (Up by 1.3%)
  7. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$7.4 billion (Up by 1.1%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: -$7.1 billion (Up by 3.3%)
  9. Wood: -$7 billion (Up by 9.7%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$6.4 billion (Up by 76.1%)

United Kingdom has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably 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)


Searchable List of UK’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, UK’s top export products are cars followed by gold then turbo-jets.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the United Kingdom during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankUK's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$42 billion+0.1%
2Gold (unwrought)$31.6 billion+85.9%
3Turbo-jets$24.9 billion+9.5%
4Crude oil$24.8 billion+29.7%
5Medication mixes in dosage$18.9 billion-7.7%
6Aircraft parts$17 billion+5.1%
7Processed petroleum oils$13.6 billion+18.7%
8Blood fractions (including antisera)$8.8 billion-10.1%
9Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$7.9 billion+8.5%
10Automobile parts/accessories$7 billion+5.5%
11Platinum (unwrought)$6.1 billion+7.9%
12Phone system devices including smartphones$4.8 billion-7.9%
13Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$4.7 billion+8.4%
14Engines (diesel)$4.5 billion+14.6%
15Jewelry$4.4 billion-6.1%
16Computers, optical readers$4.2 billion+7.7%
17Petroleum gases$3.7 billion+1%
18Iron or steel scrap$3.2 billion+10.2%
19Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$3 billion+4%
20Taps, valves, similar appliances$2.9 billion-2.1%
21Printed books, brochures$2.6 billion+5.2%
22Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$2.4 billion+15.3%
23Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$2.4 billion+7.2%
24Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$2.4 billion-3.6%
25Aircraft, spacecraft$2.4 billion-45.7%
26Physical/chemical analysis tools$2.3 billion+7.5%
27Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$2.2 billion+3.3%
28Liquid pumps and elevators$2.1 billion+6.5%
29Lower-voltage switches, fuses$2.1 billion+2.7%
30Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$2.1 billion-7.4%
31Trucks$2 billion+21.4%
32Printing machinery$1.9 billion+11.4%
33Piston engine parts$1.9 billion+5.5%
34Other diagnostic/lab reagents$1.8 billion+3.1%
35Piston engines$1.8 billion-0.6%
36Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$1.8 billion-8.5%
37Tractors$1.7 billion+8.8%
38Miscellaneous machinery$1.7 billion+6.9%
39Other food preparations$1.7 billion+3.7%
40Insulated wire/cable$1.7 billion+3.9%
41Other measuring/testing machines$1.7 billion-0.6%
42Orthopedic appliances$1.6 billion+24.8%
43Acyclic hydrocarbons$1.6 billion+23.2%
44Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$1.6 billion+6.2%
45Integrated circuits/microassemblies$1.6 billion+2.8%
46Unrecorded sound media$1.6 billion-12.4%
47Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$1.5 billion-1.3%
48Air or vacuum pumps$1.5 billion+14.3%
49Computer parts, accessories$1.5 billion+0.3%
50Miscellaneous plastic items$1.5 billion+1.1%
51Silver (unwrought)$1.5 billion+83.1%
52Machinery parts$1.4 billion-2.7%
53Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$1.4 billion+9.8%
54Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$1.3 billion+4.7%
55Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$1.3 billion+19.5%
56Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$1.3 billion+26.8%
57Liquid/gas checking instruments$1.3 billion-1.4%
58Electrical machinery$1.3 billion+8.2%
59Regulate/control instruments$1.3 billion-7.4%
60Electrical converters/power units$1.3 billion+1.9%
61Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$1.3 billion+7.5%
62Fork-lift trucks$1.3 billion+21%
63Chemical industry products/residuals$1.3 billion+11.9%
64Other organic cleaning preparations$1.3 billion+0.5%
65Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$1.2 billion-18.5%
66Sort/screen/washing machinery$1.2 billion+21.5%
67Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$1.2 billion+1.5%
68Footwear (leather)$1.2 billion+0.1%
69X-ray equipment$1.2 billion+4.2%
70Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$1.1 billion+34.6%
71Miscellaneous iron or steel items$1.1 billion-1.6%
72Electric generating sets, converters$1.1 billion-0.9%
73Precious metal waste, scrap$1 billion-3.8%
74Sculptures, statues$1 billion+16.7%
75Copper waste, scrap$1 billion-0.4%
76Miscellaneous furniture$1 billion+4%
77Print/write/draw inks$997.2 million-8.7%
78Antiques (over 100 years old)$992.7 million+19.7%
79Personal toilet/shaving preparations, deodorants$976.8 million+9.7%
80Packaged dressings$976.3 million+4.9%
81Cases, handbags, wallets$962.2 million+7.1%
82Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$955.6 million+10.9%
83Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$948.5 million+5.9%
84Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$942 million+7.7%
85Whole fish (fresh)$941.6 million-10.7%
86Radar, radio communication items$941.5 million+77%
87Electric motors, generators$935.1 million+1.7%
88Navigational aids including compasses$931 million+4.7%
89Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$921.3 million+11.1%
90Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$915.2 million+179.9%
91Cheese, curd$886.8 million+11.9%
92Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$886.8 million+9.8%
93Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$875.5 million+5.1%
94Temperature-change machines$874.2 million+9.7%
95Miscellaneous heterocyclics$869.5 million-10.7%
96Other coloring matter, luminophores$859.9 million+8.3%
97TV receivers/monitors/projectors$848.3 million+3.9%
98Medication mixes not in dosage$846.1 million+30.1%
99Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$844.7 million+3.5%
100Lifting/loading machinery$840.8 million+14.4%
101Ethylene polymers$824.4 million+5.2%
102Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$812.6 million+104.1%
103Wine $809.9 million+12%
104T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$805.4 million+7%
105Bombs, grenades, ammunition$798.1 million+351.1%
106Rubber tires (new)$790.6 million-1.9%
107Miscellaneous engines, motors$780.4 million+24.9%
108Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$770.9 million+2.3%
109Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$768.9 million-2.9%
110Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$766.2 million+24.6%
111Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$750.1 million-10.3%
112Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$738.6 million+14.5%
113Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$719.7 million+0.5%
114Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$718.3 million+8.6%
115Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$711.9 million-0.7%
116Table games, bowling equipment$707.9 million+14%
117TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$702.3 million+1.5%
118Amino-compounds (oxygen)$697.8 million+139.1%
119Footwear (textile)$680 million+27.8%
120Sports equipment$669.8 million+8.9%
121Aluminum (unwrought)$667.9 million+7.6%
122Aluminum waste, scrap$665.5 million+17.3%
123Perfumes, toilet waters$657.3 million-20.2%
124Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$643.5 million-6.5%
125Malt beer$639.7 million-5.5%
126Roasted cereal prepared foods$638.3 million+15.5%
127Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$637.1 million+2.9%
128Stainless steel ingots$635.8 million+21.9%
129Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$631.5 million-11.6%
130Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$627.6 million-5.9%
131Electric storage batteries$623.2 million+12.9%
132Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$622.4 million+8.5%
133Microphones/headphones/amps$620.1 million-0.4%
134Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$618.3 million+6.6%
135Machinery for making semi-conductors$608.8 million+39.9%
136Air conditioners$600.2 million+8.9%
137Ball, roller bearings$581.5 million+5.8%
138Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$581.5 million+4.9%
139Silicones$579.7 million+22.6%
140Acrylic polymers$572.9 million+10%
141Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$570.2 million+6.9%
142Hair preparations$567.4 million+2.7%
143Vulcanized rubber items$562.7 million+0.6%
144Trailers$544.4 million+3.4%
145Precious metal compounds$542.6 million+28.6%
146Survey/hydro/weather instruments$540.7 million+0.3%
147Harvest/threshing machinery$538.1 million+15.1%
148Glass fibers$532.9 million+2.6%
149Sulphonamides$530.3 million+208.4%
150Iron or steel pipe fittings$526.8 million-2%
151Cyclic hydrocarbons$524 million-7%
152Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$518.3 million-1.7%
153Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$512.6 million-2.8%
154Base metal mountings, fittings$510.2 million+0.2%
155Electric water heaters, hair dryers$507.8 million-0.8%
156Worn clothing$506.5 million-0.4%
157Organic surface-active goods, soap$501.6 million+0.3%
158Titanium$500.4 million-3.2%
159TV/radio/radar device parts$498.6 million+1.3%
160Fresh or chilled beef$486.9 million+10.5%
161Miscellaneous machine electrical parts$483.9 million-5.1%
162Sheep or goat meat$483.5 million-2.8%
163Electric ignition/start equipment$469.9 million+1.1%
164Items of stone, other mineral substances$463.2 million+3.5%
165Propylene/olefin polymers$463.2 million-2.4%
166Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$463.1 million+8.2%
167Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$456.8 million+9.7%
168Cellulose fiber paper$450.8 million-1%
169Nickel (unwrought)$449 million+4.4%
170Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$448.8 million-9.3%
171Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$447.7 million+29.4%
172Radioactive chemical elements$446.8 million+274.9%
173Live horses, mules$445.5 million-8.1%
174Gaskets, metal sheeting joints$444.3 million+7.7%
175Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$441.9 million+35.2%
176Lead (unwrought)$433.4 million-3.4%
177Crustaceans (including lobsters)$425.7 million-2.9%
178Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$423 million+28.4%
179Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$419.1 million+17.2%
180Paper containers, cellulose wadding$412.7 million+6.6%
181 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $401.2 million-10.3%
182Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$401.1 million+4.1%
183Saturated acyclic mono acids$392.4 million+24.9%
184Newspapers, journals$388.7 million+0.9%
185Poultry meat$388.3 million+7.3%
186Amine-function compounds$387.2 million+19.3%
187Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$386.4 million-0.3%
188Swine meat$386.1 million+2%
189Nitrile-function compounds$368.5 million+19.9%
190Butter/ghee/other milk fats, oils$366.2 million+27.2%
191Other machine parts, accessories$356.5 million+7.3%
192Mechano-therapy appliances$355.3 million+11%
193Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$354.9 million-1.8%
194Interchangeable hand/machine tools$349.4 million-7%
195Coffee$347.3 million-3.6%
196Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$345.1 million-1.2%
197Miscellaneous printed matter$344.3 million-6.1%
198Iron ferroalloys$335.9 million+31.5%
199Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$331.5 million+12.6%
200Oral/dental hygiene preparations$331.3 million-4%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$399.5 billion or 82.6% by value for all products exported from the UK during 2018.

See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, UK’s Major EU Exports, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and United Kingdom’s Exported Services

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 6, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 19, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 19, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 26, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies based in London. Accessed on February 19, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 26, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 6, 2019

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 19, 2019