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Trade of Merchandise

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Ireland's Trade of Merchandise with the US

International TradeGoods for ProcessingOther Adjustments Total Merchandise Exports
201218.7620198912.12240543-0.13332217720.751103144
201318.9594152842.474883082-0.59016448520.844133881
201420.7624290495.1084751521.86305891827.733963119
201526.86145294314.3503660696.78600841347.997827425
201631.89785740314.021236451.15319692147.072290774
201733.28371376911.489245408-1.69153093243.081428245
201839.16961125912.0115316920.99207513852.173218089

Ireland’s trade in goods for National Accounts and Balance of Payments purposes is measured on a change of ownership basis. Our total trade in goods includes 'international trade' traditionally measured on a cross border basis, along with ownership adjustments, such as goods for processing and other conceptual adjustments. This is described in our note Explaining Goods Exports and Imports 2012-2016. International trade accounted for 75% (€39.2bn) of total exports of goods to the US in 2018, which is an increase of €5.9bn from 2017. Goods for processing accounted for 23% (€12bn) of total exports of goods to the US in 2018, which is an increase of €0.5bn from 2017. Goods for processing/contract manufacturing1 have shown an increasing trend in Irish exports to the US and have driven increases in total exports of goods since 2014, as shown above. Conceptual adjustments2 accounted for 1.3% (€0.7bn) of total exports of goods to the US in 2018 and merchanting accounted for less than 1% (€0.3bn). Combined, this made the US Ireland’s largest trade partner for exports of goods in 2018 (see Table 1.2 for full details). Figure 2.2 below provides a country comparison of Ireland’s main merchandise trading partners.

Value of Exports
United States39.346669
Belgium18.252032
Great Britain14.027861
Germany10.488781
Netherlands7.706721
Switzerland6.478177
China5.472069
France5.399485
Italy3.637721
Japan3.325254

Get the data: StatBank (TSA10)

Figure 2.3 below breaks down the main components of international trade exports to the US in 2018. Exports of pharmaceutical products dominated international trade exports and total merchandise exports in 2018 at €25.8bn, accounting for 66% of international trade and 49% of total exports of merchandise. This makes pharmaceutical products Ireland’s largest export component in trade with the US.

In Figure 2.3, we can see that pharmaceutical goods have grown to become Ireland’s largest export to the US between 2012 and 2018. The trade surplus in international trade with the US was €22.3bn in 2018, which is an increase of €6.1bn from 2017.

PharmaceuticalProfessional, scientific and controlling apparatusMiscellaneous manufactured articles, n.e.s.Electrical machinery, appliances etc., n.e.s.Other transport equipmentBeveragesOtherNet International Trade
201210.8632991.573382.2815640.3108660.3749340.3423033.0156749.511711
201311.0144461.6952032.2192190.3456120.2648160.3496643.07045510.528404
201411.6996212.1403922.1697260.3512080.4735840.3492083.5786911.618977
201514.5728832.3047342.3705680.8189841.9993840.4853574.30953115.939693
201616.6747372.5092352.2655163.1744332.6375560.511984.124417.93189
201718.1847132.7196992.5584122.592892.306420.5755254.34605516.192848
201825.7773952.7484352.8873821.6805861.0678820.6134054.57158422.308461

Get the data: StatBank (TSA10)

Figure 2.4 below illustrates the share of exports of pharmaceutical products to the US and EU28 as a percentage of total world pharmaceutical exports. In 2018, exports to the US accounted for 35% of total Irish pharmaceutical exports, which makes the US the largest importer of Irish pharmaceutical products outside of the EU28. While a significant share of pharmaceutical products manufactured in Ireland are being exported to the US, the majority of these exports, nearly half of Ireland’s total pharmaceutical products, are being exported into Europe.

Get the data: StatBank (TSA10)

As Ireland’s economy has become more globalised, firms have moved towards cross-border production arrangements. These include (a) goods sent abroad for further processing in another economy, (b) goods received from abroad for processing in Ireland, or (c) goods purchased abroad and further processed abroad. These arrangements are often termed 'processing abroad' or 'contract manufacturing'. Exports and imports as a result of processing abroad, merchanting and other conceptual adjustments are only included in the balance of payments (BOP) as merchandise (trade in goods) when a change of ownership occurs. 

Total Pharmaceutical Exports, 2018
EU2846.8143545722804
United States35.4452114764603
Rest of world17.7404339512593
Total Goods ExportsTraditional Goods Exports
201220.75110314418.762019891
201320.84413388118.959415284
201427.73396311920.762429049
201547.99782742526.861452943
201647.07229077431.897857403
201743.08142824533.283713769
201852.17321808939.169611259
Total Goods ImportsTraditional Goods Imports
20129.7255719588.367351905
20138.6760326597.538030331
20149.7796689088.114629679
201513.7393122449.69456451
201616.2616744512.212116619
201714.9434566514.397861132
201817.69239911414.876323578

Figures 2.5 and 2.6 show the growth in these adjustments for both exports and imports to the US between 2012 and 2018. Traditional goods trade represents international trade while total goods trade represents traditional trade plus contract manufacturing, conceptual adjustments and merchanting. The effects of change in ownership adjustments have a much larger impact on the value of goods exports to the US in comparison to goods imports from the US. In 2018, the disparity between the total and traditional measures of goods imports from the US was €2.8bn while the disparity between the two measures of goods exports to the US was €13bn.

Traditional Goods ExportsOwnsership Adjustments to Traditional Goods ExportsServices Exports
201218.7620198911.9890832538.547347603
201318.9594152841.8847185979.415931591
201420.7624290496.971534079.039383586
201526.86145294321.13637448213.57745722
201631.89785740315.17443337114.569849044
201733.2837137699.79771447617.712640369
201839.16961125913.0036068320.908693297

Change in ownership adjustments are relatively small until after 2014 when the disparity between total and traditional merchandise exports grows significantly. These adjustments peaked in 2015 at a value of €21.1bn. Figure 2.8 (below) illustrates the effect of these ownership adjustments on Ireland’s trade balance with the US. The two series of the US trade balance, one adjusted for change in ownership, move similarly until 2014 when the disparity between the two becomes significant as a result of increases in the exports of goods for processing. The large positive adjustments to the trade balance with the US suggest that a lot of physical flows of goods from Ireland to the US result in a change of ownership. For more see the information note Explaining Goods Exports and Imports.

Ownership Adjustments to Traditional Goods ExportsTotal Trade Balance with the USTraditional Trade Balance with the US
20121.989083253-6.294411642-6.925274842
20131.884718597-1.925650281-2.67236655
20146.971534070.578826874-4.727667967
201521.1363744826.659196507-10.432430241
201615.174433371-4.109839786-15.234715326
20179.797714476-1.610405855-10.862524813
201813.003606838.264055549-1.923475745

1For more details on goods for processing see the information note Explaining Ireland’s Trade Balance.

2For more details on conceptual adjustments see the information note Explaining Ireland’s Trade Balance.


Next chapter >> Trade of Services