Last reviewed 18 November 2020

With only weeks left before the end of the transition period, EU and UK negotiators have still failed to reach agreement, so the timing of the latest European Commission report is perhaps a subtle reminder that the EU does not lack for willing partners.

The fourth annual report, 2020 Report on Implementation of EU Trade Agreements, can be found at https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2020/november/tradoc_159039.pdf.

The Commission highlights that trade with the 65 preferential partners covered in the report grew by 3.4% in 2019, while the EU's total external trade grew by 2.5% overall.

The EU's trade agreements with Canada and Japan have especially boosted trade; by nearly 25% and 6%, respectively, since their entry into force.

Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said: “At a time when the European economy is in crisis, international trade is more essential than ever. Our trade agreements make it easier for EU companies to grow by trading outside the internal market. Tariff cuts boost trade, and we see this borne out in our growing trade with Canada and Japan.”

Overall, trade agreements contributed €113 billion to the EU's overall trade surplus of €197 billion.

EU industrial goods exports grew from +1.9% in 2018 to +3.7% in 2019. The top three categories, including machinery, chemicals and transport equipment, saw growth rates of 1.5%, 6.3% and 5.7%, respectively.

EU exports to Canada of machinery (up 15%) and pharmaceuticals (up 18%) saw particularly high growth rates.

The Commission concludes with the hope that the EU’s large network of trade agreements can help to counter and mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic which include estimates that EU exports to third countries could fall between 9% and 15% while imports drop by 11% to 14% (goods and services combined).