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EU position in world trade

The EU is in prime position when it comes to global trade. The openness of our trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with.

Trade topics
  • EU companies accessing world markets
  • Importing into the EU
  • Trade policy

The EU has achieved a strong position by acting together with one voice on the global stage, rather than with separate trade strategies.

Europe has become deeply integrated into global markets. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world, which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.

Workers often deliver their services across different countries within a multinational or by specific service contracts.

As investors thrive in a stable, sound and predictable environment, they are looking for investment barriers to be dismantled and investments to be protected.

  • Every day, Europe exports hundreds of millions of euros worth of goods, and imports hundreds of millions more.
  • Europe is the world's largest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and is itself the biggest export market for around 80 countries.
  • Together, the European Union's members account for 16% of world imports and exports (2022 data).

Why does it matter?

  • The development of trade – if properly managed – is an opportunity for economic growth. So EU trade policy seeks to create growth and jobs by increasing the opportunities for trade and investment with the rest of the world.
  • By working together, Europe has the weight to shape an open global trading system based on fair rules – and to ensure that those rules are respected.
  • The EU’s success is inextricably bound up with the success of our trading partners, both in the developed and developing world. For this reason, sustainable development is central to trade policy.

The EU is an attractive market to do business with

  • We have 440 million consumers looking for quality goods.
  • We are the world's largest single market, with transparent rules and regulations.
  • We have a secure legal investment framework that is among the most open in the world.
  • We are the most open market to developing countries in the world.

Facts and figures on the EU’s position in global markets

  • The EU is the largest economy in the world. Although growth is projected to be slow, the EU remains the largest economy in the world with a GDP per head of €25,000 for its 440 million consumers.
  • The EU is the world's largest trading bloc. The EU is the world’s largest trader of manufactured goods and services.
  • The EU ranks first in both inbound and outbound international investments.
  • The EU is the top trading partner for 80 countries. By comparison, the US is the top trading partner for a little over 20 countries.
  • The EU is the most open to developing countries. Fuels excluded, the EU imports more from developing countries than the USA, Canada, Japan and China put together.

The EU benefits from being one of the most open economies in the world and remains committed to free trade.

  • The average applied tariff for goods imported into the EU is very low. More than 70% of imports enter the EU at zero or reduced tariffs.
  • The EU’s services markets are highly open and we have arguably the most open investment regime in the world.
  • The EU has not reacted to the crisis by closing markets. However, some of the EU’s trading partners have not been so restrained, as the EU has highlighted in the Trade and Investment Barriers Report.
  • In fact the EU has retained its capacity to conclude and implement trade agreements. Free trade agreements with South Korea and with Singapore are examples of this and the EU has an ambitious agenda of trade agreements in the pipeline.

More on EU position in world trade

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