Competitiveness › International Trade

Today, over 21,000 European food and drink manufacturing enterprises are engaged in international trade (90% are small and medium-sized enterprises) and the growth markets outside the EU present the industry with significant opportunities.

The EU food and drink industry is dedicated to delivering safe, high quality, value-added innovative products to consumers worldwide. European food and drink products are exported to more than 200 countries and exports to non-EU countries generated approximately €110bn in 2017 (>25% of total EU food and drink exports). The EU is the world’s largest exporter of food and drink products and second importer, with a positive trade balance of €36bn.

The industry processes about 70% of the EU’s agricultural output. At the same time, manufacturers also rely on imports of some key ingredients that are not produced in the EU or at least not in sufficient quantities, and which play a complementary role in the production of many value-added products.

Trade supports EU food and drink manufacturing jobs, businesses of all sizes (small, medium-sized and large), and many linked upstream/downstream activities across supply chains.

For more detailed information, see our latest Data & Trends 2019 report.


Our role

As the representative body of the EU food and drink industry, we closely monitor the international trade and regulatory environment, and advocate for policies that seek to improve the industry’s international competitiveness and improve the market access conditions on both traditional and emerging markets.


Policy areas of interest

  • EU Trade Policy
  • WTO and multilateral trade negotiations 
  • Market access issues in third countries
  • Promotion of EU food and drink products in third countries
  • Internationalisation of SMEs


Policy recommendations 

Please find below FoodDrinkEurope’s policy recommendations on trade, as reflected in our publication “A Competitive EU Food and Drink Industry for Growth and Jobs – Ambitions for 2025 – Priorities and policy recommendations”  (September 2016).

  • Help create a favourable trade environment for EU food and drink products and secure access to foreign markets, by addressing barriers to trade (tariffs and non-tariff barriers).
  • Support a strong, rules-based multilateral trading system administered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In the absence of a global multilateral agreement, the EU should continue to seize market opportunities by concluding ambitious and balanced bilateral trade agreements.
  • Ensure that the EU trade policy creates new export opportunities and facilitates security of supply, while providing fair terms of competition and a level playing field for EU producers.
  • Recognise the strategic importance of EU food and drink SMEs and promote their internationalisation.
  • Support an efficient promotion policy which covers a large variety of EU food and drink products.


For additional background information, please see:

FoodDrinkEurope’s contribution to the Future EU Trade Policy Strategy (September 2015)


External links 

DG Grow – Food and drink industry

DG Trade – Trade negotiations – Latest Developments

DG Trade – Trade Strategy

DG Trade – EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

DG Trade – Bilateral relations

DG Trade – Exporting from the EU - what you need to know

DG Trade - EU exporters' stories

DG Agri – Promotional measures

Eurostat - Trade statistics

European Parliament - Committee on International Trade (INTA)