An Analysis of EU-China Agricultural Trade Relations in the Context of Brexit – the Perspective of Trade Specialisation Dynamics


  • Bernadette Andreosso-O’Callaghan University of Limerick
  • Junshi Li University of Limerick



EU27, China, agricultural product trade, comparative advantage, trade specialisation, Brexit


This paper uses trade data from 2001 to 2017 to analyse comparative advantage of both the EU27 (excluding the UK) and China by employing Balassa’s revealed comparative advantage index (BRCA) and the normalised revealed comparative advantage index (NRCA). Two broad types of trade specialisation dynamics have been analysed by using OLS regression analysis, together with Markov transition probability, Shorrocks’ mobility index, and regression trend analysis. The results show that the majority of the agricultural products are in the comparative disadvantage category, and that although the EU has a strong comparative advantage in several agricultural products, its probability to keep these advantages is lower than for China.


Ahmad, I., Kunroo, M. H. and Sofi, I. A. (2018) ‘An RCA Analysis of India-China Trade Integration: Present, Potential and Prospects’, Foreign Trade Review, Vol. 53, Issue 1, pp. 49-58.

Balassa, B. (1965) ‘Trade Liberalization and Revealed Comparative Advantage’, The Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies 33, pp. 92-123.

Balassa, B. (1977) ‘Revealed’ Comparative Advantage Revisited’, The Manchester School, vol. 45, PP. 327-344.

Banterle, A. and Carraresi, L. (2007) ‘Competitive performance analysis and European Union trade: The case of the prepared swine meat sector’, Food Economics- Acta Agricult Scand C, Vol. 4, pp. 159-172.

Bojnec, Š. and Fertö, I. (2009) ‘Agro-food trade competitiveness of Central European and Balkan countries’, Food Policy, Vol. 34, pp.417-425.

Bavorová, M. (2003) ‘Influence of policy measures on the competitiveness of the sugar industry in the Czech Republic’, Agric. Econ.-Czech, 49, 2003(6), pp. 266-274.

Cantwell, J. (1989) ‘Technological innovation and multinational corporations’, Cambridge: B. Blackwell, pp.239.

Carraresi, L. and Banterle, A. (2015) ‘Agri-food Competitiveness Performance in EU Countries: A Fifteen-Year Retrospective’, International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, Vol. 18, Issue 2, pp. 37-62.

Dalum, B., Laursen, K., and Villumsen, G. (1998) ‘Structure change in OECD export specialisation patterns: despecialisation and ‘stickiness’’, International Review of applied Economics, vol. 12, issue 3, pp. 423-443.

Drescher, K. and Maurer, O. (1999) ‘Competitiveness in the European Dairy Industries’, Agribusiness, vol. 15, No. 2, pp 163-177.

Deardorff, A. (1974) ‘Factor Proportions and Comparative Advantage in the Long Run: Comment’, Journal of Political Economy 82, pp. 829-833.

Elryah, Y. (2015) ‘Back to the Agriculture – the Development of the Comparative Advantage of Sudan’s Commodities’, Journal of Finance and Economics, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 1-5.

Esquivias, M. A. (2017) ‘The Change of Comparative Advantage of Agricultural Activities in East Java within the Context of Asean Economic Integration’, Agris on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, vol. IX, No. 1, PP. 33-47.

EC (2017) ‘Agriculture A partnership between Europe and farmers’, Directorate-General for Communication, European Commission, EU publications, DOI 10.2775/64508.

Fang, C. and Beghin, J. C. (2000) ‘Food Self-Sufficiency, Comparative Advantage, and Agricultural Trade: A Policy Analysis Matrix for Chinese Agriculture’, CARD Working Papers, Paper 270.

Finlay, R. (1970) ‘Factor Proportions and Comparative Advantage in the Long Run’, Journal of Political Economy 78, pp.27-34.

Fujita, M., Krugman, P., and Venables, A. (1999) ‘The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade’, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1999).

Gorton, M., Davidova, S. and Ratinger, T. (2000) ‘The competitiveness of Agriculture in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic Vis-à-vis the European Union’, Comparative Economic Studies, XLII, No.1, pp. 59-86.

Hoang, V. V, Tran, K. T. and Tu, B. V. (2017a) ‘Assessing the Agricultural Competitive Advantage by the RTA index; A Case Study in Vietnam’, AGRIS on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 15-26.

Hoang, V. V. et al. (2017b) ‘Agricultural Competitiveness of Vietnam by the RCA and the NRCA Indices, and Consistency of Competitiveness Indices’, AGRIS on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Vol. 9, No. 4, PP. 543-67.

Hart, P. E. and Prais, S. J. (1965) ‘The analysis of business concentration: a statistical approach’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General), vol. 119, No. 2, pp. 150-191.

Hart, P. E. (1976) ‘The dynamics of earning, 1963-1973’, Economics Journal, Vol. 86, No. 343, pp. 551-565.

Hinloopen, J. and Marrewijk, C. V. (2001) ‘On the empirical distribution of the Balassa index’, Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, vol. 137, No. 1, pp.1-35.

Krugman, P. (1987) ‘The Narrow Moving Band, the Dutch Disease and the Competitive Consequences of Mrs Thatcher: notes on trade in the presence of scale economies’, Journal of Development Economics 27, pp. 41-55.

Krugman, P. (1991) ‘Increasing Return and Economic Geography’, Journal of Political Economy, vol. 99, issue. 3, pp. 483-499.

Latruffe, L. (2010) ‘Competitiveness, Productivity and Efficiency in the Agricultural and Agri-Food Sectors’, OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers, No. 30, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Nath, H. K., Liu, L. and Tochkv, Kiril (2015) ‘Comparative advantage in U.S. Bilateral services trade with China and India, Journal of Asian Economics, Vol. 38, pp. 79-92.

Sahinli, M. A. (2013) ‘Comparative advantage of agriculture sector between Turkey and European Union’, African Journal of Agricultural Research’, vol. 8, No. 10, pp. 884-895.

Serin, V. and Civan, A. (2008) ‘Revealed Comparative Advantage and Competitiveness: A Case Study for Turkey towards the EU’, Journal of Economic and Social Research, vol. 10, No.2, pp. 25-41.

Shorrocks, A. F. (1978) ‘The measurement of mobility’, Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, pp. 1013-1024.

Vollrath, T. L. (1991) ‘A Theoretical Evaluation of Alternative Trade Intensity Measures of Revealed Comparative advantage’, Weltwirtschaftliches Archive Bd. 127, H.2 (1991), pp. 265-280.

Yu, R., Cai, J. and Leung, P. S. (2009) ‘The normalised revealed comparative advantage index’ Ann Reg Sci, vol.43, pp. 267-282.