EU-U.S. trade drops for first time since 2013 amid wider slowdown

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Trade between the European Union and the United States fell last year for the first time since 2013, estimates of the EU statistics agency showed on Wednesday, in line with a general drop in global trade.

The data come as talks for an ambitious EU-U.S. trade deal have been frozen and calls for protectionist measures are growing louder, especially from the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Eurostat said EU exports of goods to the U.S. dropped by 2 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year. Imports from the U.S. also fell by 1 percent.

Although the United States remain by far the main trading partner of the EU, accounting for more than 20 percent of all EU exports and nearly 15 percent of EU imports, last year’s drop reversed the trend of expanding trade between the two blocs.

Over the last decade, EU imports from the U.S. fell year-on-year only twice, in 2009 and in 2013, mostly as results of the 2007-09 global financial crisis and the 2010-2012 euro zone debt crisis.

Similarly, EU exports to the U.S. fell in 2013 and between 2007 and 2009.

The drop in 2016 is not linked to an economic crisis, as both blocs are growing steadily, but is part of a wider reduction of global trade.

Last year, overall EU exports to the rest of the world went down 2 percent to 1,745 billion euros (1,484 billion pounds) while EU imports fell by 1 percent to 1,706 billion euros.

EU exports to China, the bloc’s second main trading partner, remained stable, but fell to all other top partners except Japan, where they grew, Eurostat data showed.

Last year, the EU imported more goods from Switzerland, Japan, Turkey and Canada, among its top partners, while its imports from the U.S, China, Russia, Norway, South Korea and India decreased.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Tom Heneghan