In 2021, extra-EU trade saw a strong recovery from the drops in exports and imports registered in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, imports increased by 23% and exports by 13%, according to Eurostat.
Looking at the last decade, the export growth rate peaked in 2011 (+13%) and remained positive until 2016 when it dropped (-0.5%), being followed by a 7% recovery in 2017. The export growth rate stayed positive in the next two years but decreased sharply in 2020 (-9%) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The import growth rate also peaked in 2011 (+13%), followed by small fluctuations between 2012 and 2015, before growing significantly in 2017 (+11%) and 2018 (+8%), and closing the decade with a sharp decrease (-12%) in 2020.
In 2021, the EU trade in goods balance registered a surplus of €68 billion, the lowest surplus since 2011, when the trade balance recorded a €42 billion deficit. This development was driven, in particular, by a steep rise in the value of energy imports towards the end of 2021, with increasing trade deficits being recorded in November and December. After 2011, the trade balance recorded a continuous surplus, peaking at €264 billion in 2016. The surplus decreased in 2017 (€222 billion) and 2018 (€148 billion), then increased again in 2019 (€191 billion) and 2020 (€216 billion).