Biggest importers in Europe

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The 28 EU countries made up about 15% of total world trade in goods in 2014 , a percentage that was surpassed by China's 15.5% for the first time since the EU was founded. This is according to data from the European Commission. The US was ahead with world imports which stood at 15.9% compared to the EU's 14.8% and China's 12.9%.

There are extra-EU imports and intra-EU trade. Extra -EU imports are imports from other countries other than those in the EU.

B2B importers: Top European extra-EU importers

In 2015, the top importers from non-member countries or extra-EU importers were Germany which dominated with 18.8%, almost a fifth of the EU total imports. The United Kingdom came in second with 15.2% of EU imports followed by the Netherlands with 14.4%, France at 9.5% and Italy at 8.9%.

The fairly high Netherlands imports can be attributed to the significant quantity of goods that enter the EU through Rotterdam, the leading seaport in the EU. Holland is huge in re-export.

In the same year, Germany was also at the top with the largest trade surplus in goods outside the EU with a trade total of Eur 179.4 billion followed by Italy's Eur 33.7 billion and Ireland's Eur 29.3 billion.

Intra-EU imports

This is trade between EU member states. Imports stood at 3070 billion euro in 2015 which represented a 71% from the previous record of exports going out of the EU to non-member states which stood at 1791 billion euro.

Intra-EU trade went up by 4.7% in 2014 which maintained the uprise momentum that started in 2009. Arrivals and dispatches were topped by Ireland with accounted for 13.4% of total intra-EU trade followed by Croatia at 12.3%. Some countries recorded a decline in intra-EU trade in 2015. This was Estonia at whose trading dropped by 2.7%, Latvia by 2.1%, Belgium by 0.4% and Finland by 0.2%.

The EU internal market was higher than the extra-EU trade which underlines its importance. This is except for the UK - which has always kept a special role inside the EU and thus a Brexit will problematic but much less so than a Frexit or Nexit. There was wide variation in the proportion of total EU trade in goods, both for intra-EU and extra-EU trade. Luxembourg, Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic accounted for 80% of total trade.

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