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With an estimated share of around a third of global output, the EU is the second global manufacturing location for pharmaceuticals:


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  • EU pharmaceutical exports in 2009: €77.5 billion
  • EU pharmaceutical imports in 2009: €42.5 billion
  • Biggest markets for EU pharmaceutical exports: US, Switzerland, Russia, Canada, Japan.



With an estimated share in 2008 of 31.1% of world pharmaceutical output, a global output of nearly €196 billion, and sales of €133 billion the EU pharmaceutical industry is one of Europe’s best-performing sectors. The EU is the second global manufacturing location for pharmaceuticals behind the US and ahead of Japan, and its exports accounted for 13.4% of the global pharmaceuticals market in 2009.

The pharmaceutical industry is the 5th largest sector in the European Union, accounting for 3.5% of total manufacturing production. Pharmaceutical companies in the EU employ approximately 633,000 employees.

EU exports of pharmaceuticals in 2009 increased marginally by 2.4% compared to 2008. Europe’s trade surplus in pharmaceuticals increased from €33 billion in 2008, to €35 billion in 2009. This followed a decrease from 2007 that stood at €37billion. In 1985, this stood at just €5 billion. The main export destinations were the US (33.5%), Switzerland (11.6%) Russia (6.2%) Japan (4.6%), and Canada (4.5%).

Tariffs are not the primary export obstacle for the European pharmaceutical sector, but a number of EU trade partners do maintain tariffs on pharmaceuticals. The most common trade impediments faced by pharmaceutical exporters are a range of unnecessary, burdensome and costly registration, licensing and certification procedures. The EU aims to redress these through its bilateral trade agreements or by tackling individual barriers as part of its market access partnership.

The EU also aims to ensure protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in external markets. This is essential to an innovative industry heavily dependent on a strong intellectual property rights protection such as the pharmaceuticals sector. However, the EU also supports the WTO mechanism that makes it possible for developing countries without manufacturing capacity to have access to medicines in the event of public health crises.