The 2017 annual agri-food trade report, published this week, confirms that the EU was the largest global trader of agri-food products last year.
The bloc increased its exports of agri-food products by 5.1% in 2017, reaching a value of €138bn. Further, the EU’s imports of products were valued at €117bn, meaning that the bloc has a net trade surplus of €21bn, and ensuring it remained the largest global trader of agri-food products over the year.
Agri-food is a vital sector for the European economy, representing some 3.7% of the total value added, and accounting for 7.5% of all employment. The growth of exports to all of the EU’s main partners has contributed to economic growth and job creation. These countries are:
- Switzerland; and
- The United States of America.
The European Commission has also welcomed progress in negotiations towards free trade agreements with many of these parties, which will open up new markets for agri-food products. For example, an agreement with Japan is currently in the process of ratification.
How is the EU agri-food sector growing?
The commission is pursuing bilateral trade negotiations with other partners, including a new agreement with Mexico which was concluded earlier this year, and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada, which is now being provisionally applied. The bloc’s flagship exports include wine, spirits, infant food, chocolate and pig meat.
According to European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, the success of the EU as the largest global trader of agri-food products is due to recent reforms to the bloc’s common agricultural policy, which have worked to increase the competitiveness of European agricultural producers in international markets.
He said: “Our ambitious trade agenda – with recent successes in negotiations with Canada, Japan and Mexico – helps EU farmers and food producers make full use of the opportunities of international markets while recognising the need to provide sufficient safeguards for more sensitive sectors.”