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G5: EU’s comparative advantage in industrial robotics trade


The European Union

Note: The blue line depicts the revealed comparative advantage (RCA) of the EU’s value of trade of industrial robots with respect to the worldwide value. In order to remove noise produced by random fluctuations, and hence to better show the trend, the series is smoothed with a simple moving average transformation (or first-order moving average). The red area represents the value of the worldwide industrial robotics trade, and provides the overall trend in this market to contextualise the RCA indicator. In addition, the horizontal blue dashed line represents the benchmark for comparison. When the EU RCA (the blue line) is above the dotted line (i.e., greater than 1), this indicates that EU’s trade is more concentrated in robotics than the global average, so the EU has a relative comparative advantage or specialisation in the industrial robotics trade

In this graph, the RCA of the EU presents values greater than 1 for the entire period assessed (1995–2020), hence always showing a comparative advantage. However, it is possible to see some alternating fluctuations in the pattern of the RCA series. In particular, there is an important downturn from 2001 to 2004, reaching the lowest level in 2004. This fall may be due to a fall in demand in all major markets, which led to a drop of 12% in the worldwide sales of robots and a fall of 16% for the EU in 2002 (UNECE, 2003). The decrease of the RCA values for this period indicates that robot sales in the EU suffered more intensively the contraction in the world sales. After being relatively close to the global average, from 2005 the series shows an upward trend and the EU starts to recover. Since then, and with the exception of only 2010 and 2011 (when small decreases were seen), the indicator has maintained remarkable values. This continuity confirms that the EU’s industrial robotics sector has reached a considerable solidity and competitiveness worldwide. It is also possible to note that the RCA decreases in 2020. It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic produced a fall in the demand (as usually occurs with durable goods, the purchase of which is delayed when a crisis occurs), and this seems to have resulted in a stronger fall in the EU industrial robotics competitiveness. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the EU has maintained its advantage from 1996 onwards. Moreover, the EU has managed to preserve its relative specialisation in a period (i.e., the last two decades) during which the industrial robotics trade has expanded worldwide. As the series of global industrial robotics trade in the graph indicates (red area, right axis), the trade of industrial robots has grown rapidly since 2002, when it globally accounted for €1.27 billion, until reaching €5.7 billion in 2019. During this period the EU not only always presents an RCA greater than 1, but the value of the indicator has increased progressively


Factsheet1 February 2022
G5: EU’s comparative advantage in industrial robotics' trade