International trade in medical technology leaves the COVID-19 pandemic behind

  • 3 minutes
  • Posted on 08.11.2022

International trade in medical technology leaves the COVID-19 pandemic behind

Georgiy Bogdanov

Officer Market Data

COVID-19 dampened global trade in medical technology products. So, when we compiled the latest edition of MedTech Europe Facts & Figures (F&F), we knew readers would be keen to see whether the sector had rebounded. (Spoiler alert: it has!)

F&F is the ‘go to’ guide to Europe’s medical technology sector. Packed with robust data drawn from multiple sources, it provides a snapshot of a large, dynamic industry. International trade is just one component of the report, but it is an important one. Let’s look at the numbers and the story they tell.

Discover the Facts & Figures 2022


2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a slowdown in turnover (imports plus exports) in international trade of medical devices (MDs) and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products. It was one of the signals that the medical device industry was facing new and unexpected challenges, inducing many uncertainties regarding the future of the sector.

However, in 2021 we witnessed a 10 percentage point increase in trade, allowing total turnover to reach €514.3 billion*. This figure is an important milestone since it goes beyond the €474.5 billion registered in 2019 and clearly demonstrates that international trade in medical technologies has finally overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, and China were the countries which registered the highest turnover, accounting for nearly 47% of all trade and growing at faster rates than the global market.

The United States hit another important milestone, a negative one this time. There was a 48.5% increase in the US trade deficit in the medical technology sector, reaching €10 billion. The Chinese trade balance was in the black, at €4.8 billion, despite the 5.5% decrease in surplus compared to 2020.

European Landscape

Europe continues to make a major contribution to global medtech trade. In 2021, the trade turnover of European counties (EU27, United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland – EU27+3) reached nearly €240 billion, accounting for 46.5% of global trade of MDs and IVD products.

Several European countries posted impressive trade balances (exports minus imports). However, as we drilled into the data, it became clear that the leaderboard has changed drastically. In 2021, Ireland came out on top (€10 billion), followed by Germany (€9.5 billion), the Netherlands (€7.7 billion) and Switzerland (€6 billion). Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France were on the other end of the spectrum, with France reporting a €4.5 billion medical devices trade deficit.

In terms of strictly extra-European trade (Word – EU27+3), Ireland again registered the highest trade surplus €6 billion (+ 18.5% if compared to 2020), leaving Switzerland and Germany far behind with only €3.4 billion and €3.2 billion, respectively.

As we can see, despite occasional lockdowns and supply chain difficulties, 2021 ended on a positive note for international MD and IVD trade. More than that, Europe’s medical technology sector is in good health, having bounced back from the challenges posed by the pandemic.

This is just one of the valuable insights that emerge from our latest report. To make sure your thinking is informed by data, dive into the rich data available in MedTech Europe’s Facts & Figures 2022.

*Data Source: International Trade Centre, 2022, International Trade Statistics

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