European Union

Author: Christopher Robinson
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2014 from 2013:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Increased by $14.5 billion (5.5 percent) to $276.7 billion
  • U.S. imports: Increased by $30.2 billion (7.8 percent) to $417.8 billion
  • U.S. trade deficit: Increased by $15.7 billion (12.5 percent) to $141.1 billion

U.S. Exports

U.S. total exports to the EU increased by $14.5 billion (or 5.5 percent) to $276.7 billion in 2014 (table EU.1). The increase was largely driven by improved finances in the EU airline industry, expansion of U.S. production to address growth in the EU motor vehicle market, and the fluid nature of gold purchase contracts. These shifts counterbalanced reductions in both the volume and the prices of exports of refined petroleum products.

Table EU.1: U.S. total exports, general imports, and merchandise trade balance, by major industry/commodity sectors, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. total exports:              
Agricultural products 10,629 12,428 12,411 13,999 14,866 866 6.2
Forest products 5,248 5,355 5,225 5,171 5,291 120 2.3
Chemicals and related products 56,698 56,227 56,879 57,280 59,104 1,825 3.2
Energy-related products 14,437 27,192 26,129 26,574 24,363 -2,211 -8.3
Textiles and apparel 2,250 2,447 2,409 2,513 2,601 88 3.5
Footwear 90 104 92 111 105 -7 -5.9
Minerals and metals 24,596 31,061 27,701 21,203 24,282 3,080 14.5
Machinery 17,012 18,975 18,729 19,330 21,123 1,793 9.3
Transportation equipment 45,207 52,551 52,979 52,951 56,755 3,804 7.2
Electronic products 46,593 47,502 46,444 46,499 49,485 2,985 6.4
Miscellaneous manufactures 7,761 8,044 9,137 8,930 10,705 1,775 19.9
Special provisions 9,382 7,695 7,551 7,589 8,018 429 5.6
Total 239,903 269,580 265,686 262,151 276,698 14,548 5.5
U.S. general imports:              
Agricultural products 17,215 19,546 20,516 21,475 22,739 1,265 5.9
Forest products 4,342 4,568 4,535 4,751 4,941 190 4
Chemicals and related products 83,562 92,225 87,933 86,888 96,196 9,308 10.7
Energy-related products 23,641 27,735 27,776 24,483 22,338 -2,145 -8.8
Textiles and apparel 4,546 5,307 5,425 5,696 6,236 540 9.5
Footwear 1,284 1,572 1,687 1,869 2,087 218 11.7
Minerals and metals 23,749 29,266 30,279 29,456 32,646 3,190 10.8
Machinery 32,004 40,483 41,693 41,877 47,377 5,500 13.1
Transportation equipment 61,255 73,991 85,625 90,980 100,111 9,131 10
Electronic products 37,672 41,648 42,489 43,086 45,130 2,045 4.7
Miscellaneous manufactures 12,500 13,837 15,267 17,409 17,868 459 2.6
Special provisions 17,832 18,725 18,971 19,624 20,168 544 2.8
Total 319,600 368,902 382,197 387,591 417,837 30,245 7.8
U.S. merchandise trade balance:              
Agricultural products -6,586 -7,118 -8,104 -7,475 -7,873 -398 -5.3
Forest products 906 788 689 420 350 -70 -16.7
Chemicals and related products -26,864 -35,997 -31,053 -29,608 -37,091 -7,483 -25.3
Energy-related products -9,204 -544 -1,647 2,091 2,025 -66 -3.2
Textiles and apparel -2,296 -2,860 -3,016 -3,183 -3,635 -452 -14.2
Footwear -1,193 -1,468 -1,596 -1,757 -1,982 -225 -12.8
Minerals and metals 847 1,795 -2,578 -8,253 -8,364 -111 -1.3
Machinery -14,992 -21,509 -22,964 -22,547 -26,254 -3,707 -16.4
Transportation equipment -16,048 -21,440 -32,647 -38,028 -43,355 -5,327 -14
Electronic products 8,920 5,854 3,954 3,414 4,354 941 27.6
Miscellaneous manufactures -4,739 -5,792 -6,131 -8,479 -7,163 1,316 15.5
Special provisions -8,449 -11,030 -11,420 -12,034 -12,150 -116 -1
Total -79,697 -99,322 -116,512 -125,441 -141,138 -15,698 -12.5
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed February 20, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. Sectors are ordered by the level of processing of the products classified within each sector.

U.S. total exports of transportation equipment rose by $3.8 billion (7.2 percent) to $56.8 billion, the largest increase of any sector in 2014. Aircraft and motor vehicles accounted for most of this increase (table EU.2). U.S. total exports of aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment to the EU rose by $1.6 billion. EU airlines experienced better financial performance and bought more aircraft in 2014 than in 2013, with more than half of aircraft shipments serving to replace older, less fuel-efficient aircraft.1 Under these market conditions, the list price of shipments from Boeing, the largest U.S. aircraft manufacturer, to EU customers increased by $3.2 billion.2

Table EU.2: Leading changes in U.S. total exports and general imports, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. total exports:              
Increases:              
Unrefined and refined gold (MM020A) 6,628 8,957 7,364 1,504 3,298 1,793 119.2
Transportation equipment:              
Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013) 25,740 28,479 28,935 30,748 32,348 1,600 5.2
Motor vehicles (TE009) 6,579 9,378 9,428 8,350 9,629 1,280 15.3
Medicinal chemicals (CH019) 28,638 26,544 28,105 28,586 29,686 1,100 3.8
Decreases:              
Petroleum products (EP005) 9,190 18,319 18,517 20,223 17,876 -2,347 -11.6
All other 163,127 177,903 173,337 172,739 183,861 11,123 6.4
Total 239,903 269,580 265,686 262,151 276,698 14,548 5.5
U.S. general imports:              
Increases:              
Medicinal chemicals (CH019) 58,235 62,270 56,963 53,274 60,905 7,631 14.3
Motor vehicles (TE009) 24,447 28,349 33,844 37,176 40,305 3,129 8.4
Decreases:              
Energy-related products:              
Petroleum products (EP005) 16,658 23,047 23,689 21,461 20,243 -1,219 -5.7
Crude petroleum (EP004) 3,402 1,782 888 1,011 414 -596 -59
All other 216,858 253,454 266,812 274,670 295,970 21,300 7.8
Total 319,600 368,902 382,197 387,591 417,837 30,245 7.8
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed March 27, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

U.S. total exports of motor vehicles to the EU rose by $1.3 billion (15.3 percent) from 2013 to 2014. In 2014, registrations of passenger cars in the EU increased 5.6 percent.3 BMW responded to this growing market with exports from its Spartanburg, SC, plant, which in 2014 was exporting more motor vehicles outside North America than any other U.S. motor vehicle factory.4 The importance of the South Carolina plant is suggested by U.S. export data showing that motor vehicle exports from Charleston to all markets increased by $1.3 billion.5

After transportation equipment, minerals and metals accounted for the largest sector increase of U.S. total exports to the EU, rising by $3.1 billion (14.5 percent) to $24.3 billion. Most of this increase was accounted for by exports of unwrought unrefined and refined gold to the UK. These exports went up by $1.8 billion (124 percent) to $3.3 billion in 2014, as U.S. exports of this commodity group shifted away from Switzerland (down $5.7 billion) and Hong Kong (down $4.1 billion).6 Swiss and UK facilities refine and fabricate precious metals, while Hong Kong, London, and Zurich are long-established global centers for trading precious metals.7

Increases in exports of transportation and metals more than offset shifts in the energy-related products sector, where U.S. exports declined $2.2 billion (8.3 percent) to $24.4 billion. This decline was a result of a decrease in the volume of exports of refined petroleum products, coupled with a drop in the price of these products.8 Petroleum products accounted for 75 percent of total U.S. exports to the EU in this sector during 2013–14. U.S. exports of petroleum products, primarily distillate and residual fuel oils and diesel fuels, declined by about 7 percent in volume to 142.8 million barrels in 2014. The average price for these petroleum product exports to the EU dropped from about $100 per barrel in 2013 to $90–$92 per barrel in 2014.9

U.S. General Imports

U.S. imports from the EU increased by $30.2 billion (7.8 percent) to $417.8 billion. This rise was primarily driven by increases in U.S. pharmaceutical spending and the introduction of several popular EU motor vehicles models into a growing U.S. market.

U.S. imports of chemicals and related products rose by $9.3 billion (10.7 percent) to $96.2 billion, with a $7.6 billion (14.3 percent) increase in imports of medicinal chemicals accounting for most of this shift. Spending on pharmaceuticals increased 13 percent in the United States in 2014. In part this growth in spending reflects a rise in usage of higher-priced specialty drugs, which are often focused on smaller groups of patients. Such products require more complex production, handling, administration, and monitoring than traditional pharmaceuticals. Price reductions credited to generic pharmaceuticals were also smaller in 2014 than 2013, as fewer drugs went off patent.10 Pharmaceutical trade between the United States and the EU is mostly related-party trade within large companies with facilities in multiple countries, and increased imports likely reflect these large multinationals using EU-based facilities to meet growing U.S. demand.

U.S. imports of transportation equipment from the EU increased by $9.1 billion (10.0 percent) to $100.1 billion. The most significant component of this increase was in imports of motor vehicles, which rose by $3.1 billion (8.4 percent). New EU models capitalized on an expanding market as motor vehicle sales in the United States increased by 5.9 percent in 2014.11 In particular, Audi and Mercedes both reported higher U.S. sales for models made in Hungary and Spain: imports from those two countries rose by a combined $2.1 billion.12

U.S. imports of energy-related products from the EU fell in terms of both volume and value, dropping by $2.1 billion (8.8 percent) to $22.3 billion in 2014. This shift was caused by declining U.S. demand, rising U.S. production of crude from shale sources, and falling crude petroleum prices (from $95.99 per barrel in 2013 to $88.85 per barrel in 2014).13 The leading products imported from the EU are crude petroleum and refined petroleum products. Crude petroleum imports, which accounted for 58 percent of total imports of energy-related products from the EU in terms of volume, declined by 40 percent to 416.1 million barrels in 2014.14 U.S. imports of petroleum products from the EU declined in value by 5.7 percent to $20.2 billion in 2014, but fell by only 3 percent in quantity to 170.7 million barrels that year.15

U.S. Trade Balance

The U.S. trade deficit with the European Union (EU) increased by $15.7 billion in 2014. U.S. total exports increased that year, but at a lower rate than general imports.16 The rise in exports was driven by improvements in EU airlines’ financial performance, leading to an increase in purchases of U.S.-made aircraft; by automaker BMW using its South Carolina factory to increase exports of motor vehicles to the EU; and by U.S. export markets for unwrought refined and unrefined-gold 17 shifting from Switzerland and Hong Kong to the United Kingdom (UK). As was the case with U.S. exports, these factors more than offset a decrease in U.S. exports of refined petroleum products, which was attributed to declines in both value (because of lower prices) and volume.18

U.S. imports from the EU rose 7.8 percent in 2014, with two sectors accounting for the majority of the increase. Imports of medicinal chemicals climbed as multinational pharmaceutical firms reacted to growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical market, and motor vehicle imports increased as new models produced in the EU proved popular in the expanding U.S. motor vehicle market. These increases more than offset a reduction in in the value of imports of crude petroleum, due primarily to lower prices.


1 Improvements in financial performance were indicated by increases in net post-tax profits. IATA, “Economic Performance of the Airline Industry, Mid-year Report 2014,” June 1, 2014, 3–4; IATA, “Economic Performance of the Airline Industry, End-year Report, 2014,” December 10, 2014, 6.
2 Boeing, “Orders and Deliveries,” http://active.boeing.com/commercial/orders/index.cfm?content=timeperiodselection.cfm&pageid=m15523 (accessed March 9, 2015); Boeing, “Commercial Aircraft,” http://www.boeing.com/boeing/commercial/prices/“ (accessed March 9, 2015). The linkage between list prices and actual prices is not well characterized.
3 ACEA, “Passenger Car Registrations: +5.6% over Twelve Months,” January 16, 2015.
4 Rauwald, “BMWs Made in America Surging,” July 11, 2014.
5 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity group TE009; accessed March 20, 2015).
6 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity subgroup MM020A; accessed February 27, 2015).
7 Newman, “The Minerals Industry of Switzerland,” February 2014, 43.1‒43.2; Perez, “The Minerals Industry of the United Kingdom,” September 2014, 48.1 and 48.6‒48.7.
8 Official statistics of the U.S. Department of Energy; accessed March 20, 2105).
9 Ibid.
10 Weinstein, “Report: U.S. Drug Spending Jumped 13%,” March 10, 2015.
11 Martinez, “2014 Car Sales Best in U.S. Since '06,” January 5, 2015.
12 Audi, “Audi Achieves Fifth Straight Year,” January 5, 2015; Automotive News Europe, “Mercedes, Audi Success Boosts Hungary Economy,” August 16, 2014; USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity group TE009; accessed March 20, 2015).
13 Official statistics of the U.S. Department of Energy; accessed March 20, 2015).
14 USDOE, EIA, “Country Analysis Briefs, European Union,” July 2014; USDOE, EIA, “Petroleum Supply Monthly,” March 2015.
15 Ibid.
16 The 28 member countries of the EU are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
17 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity group MM010A; accessed February 27, 2015).
18 Exchange rate changes appear to have had limited effect on these shifts in U.S.-EU trade. As discussed in the Overall Economic Performance webpage, the U.S. dollar increased in value over the second half of 2014. However, the average daily value of the U.S. dollar vs. the euro changed little between 2013 ($1.33 per euro) and 2014 ($1.32 per euro). Federal Reserve, Foreign Exchange Rates—H.10 (accessed April 23, 2015).