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EU exports fall $162 billion, another pandemic casualty

The Covid pandemic gutted travel worldwide, and the EU felt it hard according to 2020 import-export statistics.

(CN) — Exports from the European Union dropped 15% during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data published by the union’s office of statistics on Monday.

In 2020, the World Bank estimated the EU's total GDP hit $15.2 billion, €13.53 trillion, down from €13.98 trillion in 2019. Services account for more than half of GDP in each member state of the European Union.

"In an increasingly globalized world, services such as finance, insurance, transport, logistics and communications deliver key intermediate inputs and thereby provide crucial support to the rest of the economy," according to the report.

The European travel industry saw the most drastic declines in 2020 followed by construction and transportation. Insurance and pension services increased, as did financial services. EU member states exported more telecommunication services in 2020 than 2019, while importing slightly more manufacturing services from outside the European Union.

In 2019, Eurostat recorded $1.2 trillion in exports and $1.15 trillion in imports to outside countries, the highest year on record. In 2020, exports from the European Union dropped to $1 trillion and imports to $986 billion, numbers comparable to trades conducted in 2017 and 2018.

The EU’s statistics office attributed the changes “to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related sanitary measures,” in addition to decreases in travel and transportation services.

Over the last decade, the combined exports and imports of services between the EU and outside nations increased drastically, with a near 15% increase between 2014 and 2015 alone. The year 2020 marks the first recorded decrease in the bloc's trade services since the 2009 global financial crisis.

With about $190 billion worth of services exported in 2020, Ireland made up 19% of total EU services exports, followed by Germany with $173 billion or 17% and France with $135 billion or 13%. Ireland also imported the largest portion of services, making up 31% of the EU's exports ($191 billion) followed by Germany at 15% ($147 billion) and the Netherlands at 11%, equivalent to $111 billion.

Across the 27-nation bloc, Germany exported the most services, making up 14% of total internal trade with $133 billion. France exported $115 billion worth of services across the union, or 12% of total internal trade, and the Netherlands 11% or $104 billion. Making up 17% of total cross-union trade, Germany also imported the highest share of services, $155 billion, followed by France at 14% ($129 billion) and the Netherlands at 11% ($99 billion).

While Ireland, Cyprus and Greece conducted most of their trade with countries outside the EU in 2020, other countries geographically surrounded by member states — like Slovenia and Slovakia — conducted more than three-quarters of their trade with EU members. Researchers attributed differences between intra and external EU trade to “geographical proximity or historical trade associations.”

Despite major decreases in international trade, across the board the United States and the United Kingdom maintained their roles as the top exporters and importers of EU services throughout 2020, receiving a combined 40% of European service exports and delivering nearly half of all service imports to the EU.

Hong Kong, reported separately from mainland China, was the only country to receive slightly more EU exports in 2020 than in 2019. The EU also imported more services from the United States and Singapore in 2020, compared to 2009, while importing less from every other country reported.

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