I recently noted a number of data visualization tools which can be useful when exploring and comparing worlwide Trade Data and I’ve found them useful when looking at data related to UK trade.
The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a tool for presenting interactive visualizations of international trade data, and was created as a result of a Masters Thesis in Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab by Alexander Simoes.
Details of this tool can be found here:
The observatory is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License.
The Atlas of Economic Complexity is an similar tool for visualizing international Trade Data and allows you to explore imports and exports based on individual products addressing numerous diverse questions such as “Who imported Apricots in 2015” (which, btw, appears to be a favourite in China!)
The Atlas can answer questions such as:
- What does a country import and export?
- How has its trade evolved over time?
- What are the drivers of export growth?
- Which new industries are likely to emerge in a given geography? Which are likely to disappear?
- What are the GDP growth prospects of a given country in the next 5-10 years, based on its productive capabilities?
“The Atlas of Economic Complexity,” is from the Center for International Development at Harvard University,
The Atlas online is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License
Both tools use international trade data and includes data based on exports, not production data. The data also only includes goods, and not details about services. The tools are published as Open Source and can be found on github at
Examination of Trade Data can be useful in understanding the relationship and interdependencies of trade between the UK and countries in Europe and the rest of the world. It may indicate that the EU may still have an interest in maintaining a good relationship with the UK in order to have tariff free access to the UK market just as much as the UK has an interest in retaining tariff free access to the EU single market.
Example using the Observatory of Economic Complexity
Based on the latest data available, from 2015, it is easy to quickly examine imports and exports between the UK and other countries, in an interactive way as follows:
The UK imported more goods (worth $592B) than it exported (worth $443B) resulting in a trade deficit in 2015.
The UK imported goods worth $592B in 2015.
The largest number of imports came from Germany worth $92.5B ( 16% of imports), then China $61.1B (10%), the USA $55.9B (9.4%), the Netherlands $43B (7.3%) and France $37.8B (6.4%)
From European countries as a whole, including Russia and other non-EU countries, the UK imported goods worth a total of $346B
The UK exported goods worth $443B in 2015.
The UK exported goods worth $66.3B (15% of exports) to the USA, then Germany $46B (10%), Switzerland $33.9B (7.7%) China $27.5B (6.2%) and France $26.4B (6.0%)
To European countries as a whole, including Russia and other non-EU countries, the UK exported goods worth a total of $239B (A trade deficit with Europe totalling $104B)
Example using the Atlas of Economic Complexity
The trade in Cars is often used as an example when analysing trade between the UK and the EU (and vice versa).
Using the data visualization tool, The ATLAS of Economic Complexity, my investigation into the trade in Cars, based on figures from 2015 shows:
The worldwide market in cars is worth $645 billion.
Who makes them ?
Germany exported the most cars worth $146B (or 23% of the market) followed by Japan at $84B (13% ), USA $52.6B (8%), Canada $44.4B (7%) then the UK $36B (6%) and Korea Rep. (6%)
Who buys them ?
Countries in Europe, not just the EU, imported cars worth a total $270B which is 42% of the total market.
The USA imported cars worth a total of $161B which is 25% of the market.
The UK imported cars worth a total of $48.7B (8%) closely followed by Germany spending $45.7B (7%), China ($37.3 6%) and France ($29.7 5%).
The same data can be explored at a European level:
Cars exported from Euopean countries
Germany exports 43% of the cars exported from European countries, followed by the UK (10%), Spain (9%), Belgium (7%) and then France (5%)
Cars imported into European countries
The UK imports 18% of the cars imported into European countries, followed by Germany (17%), France (11%), Belgium (8%) and Italy (8%).