Pharmaceutical trade in the UK

​As discussed in Global pharmaceutical trade section, a trade balance refers to the difference between the value of a country’s exports to other countries compared with imports from them.

Britain has a tradition of generating a positive balance overall, i.e. all business sectors combined, but some business sectors have a negative trade balance reducing the size of the total. The pharmaceutical industry in the UK, however, creates a substantial positive trade balance and is placed at the top of the list amongst trading businesses in the UK.

Figure 1 – Pharmaceutical trade in the UK, 1999–2013

The pharmaceutical sector has, over the past decade, consistently generated a large trade surplus for the UK - at £2.8 billion per annum according to the latest figures. This is greater than any other industrial sector in the UK.

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Source: HM Revenue and Customs, UK Trade Info, released February 2014

Figure 2 – Trade balance for selected industry sectors in the UK, 2013

In 2013, the pharmaceutical sector's contribution to the balance of trade was the third greatest of nine major industrial sectors, up from fifth in 1975.

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Note: Data subject to revision. Sectors displayed are top and bottom 10 in terms of trade balance OHE calculations performed in 2014. Based on HM Customs and Excise data. The pharmaceutical sector's trade balance compared with other industrial sectors
Source: HM Revenue and Customs, UK Trade Info, released February 2014

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