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, ie 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, 1999–2012

The pharmaceutical sector has, over the past decade, consistently generated a large trade surplus for the UK - at £5bn per annum according to the latest figures. This is greater than any other industrial sector in the UK


Graph showing UK Pharmaceutical Trade 1999–2012

Source: HM Revenue and Customs, UK Trade Info 2011, released February 2013

Figure 2 – Trade balance for selected industry sectors in the UK, 2012

In 2012, the pharmaceutical sector's contribution to the balance of trade was the greatest of nine major industrial sectors, up from fifth in 1975 and in 1990.

Trade balance for selected industry sectors in the UK, 2012

Note: Data subject to revision.
Sectors displayed are top and bottom 10 in terms of trade balance.
OHE calculations performed in 2013. Based on HM Customs and Excise data. The pharmacetuical sector's trade balance compared with other industrial sectors.
Source: HM Revenue and Customs, UK Trade Info 2012, released February 2013.


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