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The EU is a major importer of computer and consumer electronics, while maintaining a stronger international position in mobile telecommunication, electronic components and electronic measuring devices.


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  • EU electronic exports in 2010: €124 billion
  • EU electronic imports in 2010: €229 billion


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Information provided covers electronic components (such as semiconductors), computer and related office equipment, telecommunication equipment, electronic measuring devices and consumer electronics. It does not comprise electrical appliances, which are covered by the machinery sector description.

EU trade in this sector is dominated by imports, particularly from the US, Japan, China and other mainly East and South-East Asian countries. Although the EU is relatively strong in certain electronics markets, it has a negative trade balance in the electronics sector as a whole (€105 billion in 2010) and in all sub-sectors apart from measuring devices.

It has to be noted that a large proportion of trade in this sector is covered by the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) of 1997 and thus not subject to customs duties in countries that are, like the EU, member of the agreement. The EU has been proposing a review of the ITA.

In the area of telecommunication equipment, European manufacturers maintain a leading international position in wireless telecommunications both as regards to both end devices and networks. They are also leaders in technological innovation, producing technologies based on worldwide standards such as GSM for mobile telephony and UMTS / LTE for mobile broadband communications (as mainly defined by European stakeholders). Exports are concentrated principally on network technologies, radio and transmission equipment.

The EU is a big importer of computer and office equipment, including hardware, peripherals and software. The US is the leading producer at world level, followed by Japan and Europe. European software is highly competitive in the face of stiff competition from Japan and the US.

The EU is a net importer of consumer electronics including audio equipment, TVs, VCRs, cameras, cable terminals and pay-TV decoders. Japan still dominates this market worldwide, though China and Korea are playing an increasing role. As regards the colour TV market, the EU has a larger production in Eastern Europe that serves mainly the EU and neighbouring markets.

The EU has a positive trade balance on electronic measuring devices. This sub-sector is relatively small in comparison to the other four sub-sectors.

The EU is a net importer of electronic components, including semiconductors and integrated circuits. The European market for these inputs has grown with enormous rapidity. This growth has been stimulated primarily by increased demand for personal computers but also by the growing demand for digital mobile phones, automobile electronics and other telecommunications equipment. European companies represent only about 13% of world semiconductor production but they have a leading role in some specific market segments such as semiconductor supplies to automotives, telecom and smartcards. This is a rapidly changing and volatile industry which demands extremely high investment costs.

A special plurilateral set-up exists in the area of semiconductors. Global industry from EU, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei and US (over 90% of the manufacturers) is organized in the World Semiconductor Council (WSC). It presents policy recommendations to the public authorities of the six above-mentioned jurisdictions that are organized in the Government/Authorities Meeting on Semiconductors (GAMS) – European Commission, Japan, Korea, US, Chinese Taipei since 1999, China since Sept. 2006. The GAMS is a unique setting built on a consensus on the benefit of free trade in semiconductors. GAMS addresses a wide range of issues in its annual meetings, including duty free treatment, anti-counterfeiting, IPR, subsidies, rules of origin or environmental concerns. In September 2005, the five initial members concluded negotiations on the MCP agreement (duty free treatment of Multi-Chip Integrated Circuits).