Category Archives: Irish trade

27/7/19: A Cautionary Tale of Irish-UK Trade Numbers


Per recent discussion on Twitter, I decided to post some summary stats on changes in Irish total trade with the UK in recent years.

Here is the summary of period-averages for 2003-2017 data (note: pre-2003 data does not provide the same quality of coverage for Services trade and is harder to compare to more modern data vintage).


So, overall, across three periods (pre-Great Recession, 2003-2008), during the Great Recession (2009-2013) and in the current recovery period (2014-2017, with a caveat that annual data is only available through 2017 for all series), we have:

  • UK share of total exports and imports by Ireland in merchandise trade has fallen from an average annual share of 23.31 percent in pre-Great Recession period, to 18.06 percent in the post-crisis recovery period.
  • However, this decline in merchandise trade importance of the UK has been less than matched by a shallower drop in Services trade: UK share of total services exports and imports by Ireland has fallen from 64.86 percent in pre-crisis period to 62.97 percent in the recovery period.
  • Overall, taking in both exports and imports across both goods and services trade flows, UK share of Irish external trade has risen from 41.43 percent in the pre-crisis period to 45.4 percent in the current period.
  • Statistically, neither period is distinct from the overall historical average (based on 95% confidence intervals around the historical mean), which really means that all trends (in decline in the UK share in Goods & Services and in increase across all trade) are not statistically different from being... err... flat. 
  • Taken over shorter time periods, there has been a statistically significant decline in UK share of Merchandise trade in 2014-2017 relative to 2003-2005, but not in Services trade, and the increase in the UK share of Irish overall trade was also statistically significant over these period ranges. 
  • Overall, therefore, Total trade and Services trade trends are relatively weak, subject to volatility, while Merchandise trend is somewhat (marginally) more pronounced.
Here are annual stats plotted:

Using (for accuracy and consistency) CSO data on Irish trade (Services and Merchandise) by the size of enterprise (available only for 2017), the UK share of Irish trade is disproportionately more significant for SMEs:

In 2017, SMEs (predominantly Irish indigenous exporters and importers who are the largest contributors to employment in Ireland, and thus supporters of the total tax take - inclusive of payroll taxes, income taxes, corporate taxes, business rates etc) exposure to trade with the UK was 51.2 percent of total Irish exports and imports. For large enterprises, the corresponding importance of the UK as Ireland's trading partner was 13.62 percent. 

In reality, of course, Irish trade flows with the UK are changing. They are changing in composition and volumes, and they are reflecting general trends in the Irish economy's evolution and the strengthening of Irish trade links to other countries. These changes are good, when not driven by politics, nationalism, Brexit or false sense of 'political security' in coy Dublin analysts' brigades. Alas, with more than half of our SMEs trade flows being still linked to the UK, it is simply implausible to argue that somehow Ireland has been insulated from the UK trade shocks that may arise from Brexit. Apple's IP, Facebook's ad revenues, and Google's clients lists royalties, alongside aircraft leasing revenues and assets might be insulated just fine. Real jobs and real incomes associated with the SMEs trading across the UK/NI-Ireland border are not.

Whilst a few billion of declines in the FDI activity won't change our employment rosters much, 1/10th of that drop in the SMEs' exports or imports will cost some serious jobs pains, unless substituted by other sources for trade. And anyone who has ever been involved in exporting and/or importing knows: substitution is a hard game in the world of non-commodities trade.

13/3/15: Irish Bilateral Trade in Goods with BRIC: 2014


Full year 2014 data on Irish bilateral trade in goods with the BRIC countries is showing some interesting changes to historical patterns worth highlighting. Let's start with country-specific analysis:

Russia: 


Irish exports to Russia (goods only) reached EUR722 million in 2014, up 13.3% y/y from EUR637 million in 2013. Over the last five years, Irish exports to Russia almost doubled, rising 198%. Russia now accounts for 21.6% of Ireland's total exports to BRIC economies, up from 8.2% in 2009. Trade balance with Russia (goods only) has risen more modestly to EUR496 million, up just 1.43%, marking the second highest bilateral trade balance with Russia (the highest one was achieved in 2012 at EUR503 million). Still, Ireland's trade balance with Russia is the largest for all BRIC and Irish exports to Russia now exceeds the combined exports from Ireland to Brazil and India for the fourth year in a row. Over the last 5 years, cumulative trade in goods surplus in favour of Ireland in trade with Russia stands at EUR2.085 billion.

Brazil:


Irish exports to Brazil fell from EUR262 million in 2013 to EUR256 million in 2014 (a drop of 2.3% that effectively reverses the rise of 2.34% recorded in 2013). As the result, 2014 exports to Brazil exactly matched EUR256 million level of exports achieved in 2013. Over the last 5 years, Irish exports to Brazil have grown only 21.2% cumulatively - the second worst performance in BRIC. As the result of sharper contraction in imports, Irish trade balance with Brazil actually managed to improve in 2014. 2014 trade in goods surplus for Ireland's trade with Brazil was EUR97 million as opposed to a deficit of EUR12 million recorded in 2013 and a deficit of EUR260 million recorded in 2012. Over the last 5 years, cumulative trade in goods deficit against Ireland in trade with Brazil stands at EUR7.9 million.


India:


Irish exports to India fell from EUR304 million in 2013 to EUR248 million in 2014 (a drop of 18.4% that significantly reverses the rise of 29.4% recorded in 2013). As the result, 2014 exports to India almost matched EUR235 million level of exports achieved in 2013. Over the last 5 years, Irish exports to India have grown only 56.5% cumulatively - the second best performance in BRIC after Russia. As the result of a small rise in imports, Irish trade balance with India actually managed to deteriorate in 2014. 2014 trade in goods deficit for Ireland's trade with India was EUR154 million as opposed to a deficit of EUR83 million recorded in 2013 and a deficit of EUR130 million recorded in 2012. 2014 was the worst deficit year in our bilateral trade with India since the data on bilateral trade became available in 1998. Over the last 5 years, cumulative trade in goods deficit against Ireland in trade with India stands at EUR673.7 million.


China:

Irish exports to China rose from EUR1,941 million in 2013 to EUR2,111 million in 2014 (a rise of 8.8% that largely reverses the fall of 10.4% recorded in 2013). As the result, 2014 exports to China almost matched EUR2,167 million level of exports achieved in 2013. Over the last 5 years, Irish exports to China have shrunk by 9.4% cumulatively - the worst performance in BRIC. Adding insult to the injury, as the result of a small rise in imports, Irish trade balance with China actually managed to deteriorate in 2014. 2014 trade in goods deficit for Ireland's trade with China was EUR1,370 million as opposed to a deficit of EUR1,150 million recorded in 2013 and a deficit of EUR693 million recorded in 2012. 2014 was the worst deficit year in our bilateral trade with China since 2008. Over the last 5 years, cumulative trade in goods deficit against Ireland in trade with China stands at EUR3,849 million.


Combined bilateral trade with BRIC:


Irish exports to BRIC markets (goods only) rose to EUR3,337 million in 2014, rising 6.2% y/y from EUR3,114 million in 2013 and virtually reversing the losses sustained between 2013 and 2012 to almost match 2011 level of EUR3,324 million. Over the last 5 years, exports from Ireland into BRIC economies rose 13.4% cumulatively - hardly an impressive performance. Meanwhile, Irish imports from BRIC rose from EUR3,900 million in 2013 to EUR4,268 million in 2014. As the result, Irish trade deficit with BRIC economies rose from EUR756 million in 2013 to EUR931 million in 2014. Thus, 2014 marked the worst trade deficit with BRIC economies since 2008. 5 year cumulative trade deficit between Ireland and BRIC currently stands at EUR2,445.8 million


Quite surprisingly, Irish bilateral trade in goods with Russia - subject to EU sanctions, US sanctions-induced lower propensity for US multinationals to engage in Russia, and subject to severe disruption of financial flows, including trade credits and insurance - has managed to substantially outperform our trade with other BRIC economies and expand by 20.8% y/y in terms of combined trade flows and 13.4% in terms of exports to Russia. The reason for this the longer-term nature of our exporters engagement in the Russian markets and more partnership-based approach to trade. Irish exports to Russia are strongly dominated by indigenous, smaller exporters who tend to secure longer-term relationship-based engagement in the market. In addition, Irish exports to Russia are strongly developed in the areas of food production and agri-food technologies - two sectors that saw growth in investment in Russia.