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Understanding Danish exports

Each year Danish companies export for DKK 747 billion (2017). But which countries do we export to, and within which sectors are our exports concentrated? Below we offer insight into Danish export, so that your company can gear itself to embark on an export adventure.

Danish export is under the spotlight. Repeatedly, we hear from media and the business community that there is strong demand for Danish solutions on global markets. We hear that the export business of many Danish companies is thriving, and that it is always a success when a Danish company gains a foothold in new markets. But what are actually the basic facts in the grand narrative on Danish export. How much do we export for? Which countries are our best customers? And in which sectors are Danish exports strongest?

Primary purchasers of Danish exports

Export figures from 2017 show that exports of goods totalled DKK 747 billion, whilst exports of services reached DKK 441 billion. The vast majority of Danish exports went to some of our immediate neighbouring markets. Denmark’s largest export customer is Germany, with exports (goods and services) totalling DKK 153.4 billion. Sweden is Denmark’s third largest export market (total exports: DKK 123 billion), with the UK (total exports: DKK 91.1 billion) and Norway (total exports: DKK 70.9 billion) following in third and fourth place, respectively.

However, it is notable that a large proportion of Danish exports do not reach further than our nearest trading partners. In this regard, the world’s largest economy, the USA, is ranked second on the list of Denmark’s largest export markets, with goods and service exports across the Atlantic totalling DKK 125.8 billion. The fact that the world’s largest economy is the second largest purchaser of Danish exports, and thus one of our most important export markets, is a huge achievement which not only contributes to Denmark’s GNP and employment, but is also an important seal of approval of Danish quality that can hugely benefit the specific company.

Danish exports also reach the fast-growing economy of China, which also appears on the list of Denmark’s largest export markets. As the sixth largest export market, China is immensely important for Danish exports and the opportunity of Danish companies to secure orders. Total exports to China are steadily increasing and in 2017 totalled DKK 50.8 billion.

Danmark eksporterer varer og tjenester til hele verden. Her er et overblik over Danmarks største eksportmarkeder
In Danish

Danish export and our sectors of strength

When looking at Danish exports in 2017 by sector, it becomes clear that Denmark has a particularly strong position within the transport industry. The majority of service exports derive from the transport sector, with Denmark exporting for DKK 237 billion. Sea transport in particular accounted for a huge export volume with a total of DKK 189.1 billion. The overall transport sector, however, also takes top spot for exports of Danish goods, in which the item group ‘machinery and means of transport’ contributed with DKK 177.2 billion.

If we look exclusively at Danish exports of goods in 2017, Denmark’s sectors of strength also include the pharmaceutical industry (chemicals/chemical products: DKK 137.6 billion, of which medicines: DKK 92.7 billion) and the food industry with DKK 113.9 billion.

Danish exports of services, on the other hand, were dominated by travel (DKK 52.6 billion) as the largest service export category. This was followed by ICT (DKK 29.8 billion), royalties and licences (DKK 26 billion) and construction (DKK 23.7 billion) as the largest categories within service exports.

Our energy exports in 2017 amounted to DKK 30.8 billion and were primarily composed of oil, fuels and similar products. Oil and oil products accounted for DKK 25.3 billion, gas for DKK 3.6 billion and electric power for DKK 1.9 billion. Danish export also comprised power engines and motors for DKK 34.6 billion, which primarily involved the sale of wind turbines.

Export and trade means jobs

Danish export is not only important for the individual company, but also for Danish society in general. Denmark’s small, open economy is heavily dependent on being able to generate exports abroad. Export and trade means both higher GNP and a higher employment rate. Danish export supports a wide range of jobs, and the Danish labour market as a whole therefore benefits hugely from export. Danish exports to countries outside the EU support a total of 429,000 jobs in Denmark, whilst exports within the Single Market also keep Danes employed, as considerably more than half of Danish exports go to other EU Member States.

Danish export is also important for our economic growth. In the years following the financial crisis up to 2015, Danish exports rose steadily and were the largest contributor to economic growth in Denmark. In 2017, our exports, however, remained generally stationary, and Danish export is still in the process of recovering its foothold. In this respect, exports primarily destined for the EU are lagging, whereas Danish exports to the USA in particular are on the increase.

Danish exports and the Danish economy

According to Statistics Denmark, Danish GNP in 2017 was DKK 2,178.1 billion. Total exports accounted for 50 per cent of our GNP (DKK 1,188 billion), whilst imports accounted for 47.4 per cent (DKK 1,033.4 billion).

OECD has, however, calculated Denmark’s GNP to be slightly lower, and Danish exports therefore are allocated a slightly higher proportion. As a result, exports in 2017 accounted for 55.2 per cent of GNP in Denmark, 44.6 per cent in the entire EU, 47.2 per cent in Sweden, 45.3 per cent in Germany and 11.9 per cent in the USA.  

Danish exports thus have greater importance for the Danish economy than, for example, in Germany and Sweden and in the EU on average. However, there are a number of European countries which are more driven by export than Denmark. These include the Netherlands (86.5 per cent), Belgium (85.1 per cent) and Ireland (120 per cent).

Dansk eksport er steget. Grafen viser udviklingen i dansk vareeksport og tjenesteeksport fra 2007-2017
In Danish

Danish exports predominantly fall under free trade agreements

An important factor for Danish export is free trade. Free trade agreements help to make exporting and importing easier for companies, without rules and regulations being transgressed. This has increased not only Danish exports: The EU trade agreement with Mexico has increased EU exports to Mexico by 416 per cent since 2000, exports to Chile have increased by 170 per cent since 2003, and exports to South Korea have increased by 59 per cent since 2011.

Danish exports to countries with whom we have free trade agreements will contribute to our GNP. The agreement between Japan and the EU will thus increase GNP by an estimated 0.4 per cent once the effects are completely phased in by 2030. The free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea will likewise increase GNP by 0.2 per cent, and the agreement between the EU and Canada by 0.2 per cent. This is an important component of the foundation for Danish exports in the future.

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