Globally, 90.5 billion litres of renewable ethanol were produced in 2014 but only about 10% of this production was traded internationally. Most of global renewable ethanol production was consumed domestically, in the country it was produced, as a renewable transport fuel. The United States is by far the largest ethanol producer followed by Brazil. EU renewable ethanol production has grown significantly since 2003, but while Europe is today the third largest producer in the world, it remains a relatively modest player, accounting for just over 7% of global ethanol production in 2014.
In 2014, Europe imported 600 million litres of ethanol from third countries, which represents less than 10% of total EU consumption.
In contrast, between 2009 and 2013, imports represented above 20% of EU ethanol consumption. Close to 80% of all imports came from countries that have duty-free access to the EU market, through Free Trade Agreements or other trade preferences. The top five countries of origin were Guatemala, Bolivia, Pakistan, Peru and Costa Rica. Together they accounted for 60% of all EU ethanol imports.
The USA and Brazil, which are the first and second biggest ethanol producers in the world respectively, are among the few countries that pay the full EU import duty on ethanol. These two countries have, until very recently, been the largest exporters of ethanol to Europe for the past 10 years.
Given this context, the EU renewable ethanol industry's approach to ethanol trade is guided by the following principles:
The trade of ethanol and the domestic production and consumption of ethanol should be balanced in such a way that the goals of addressing climate change, creating energy independence and long-term employment can be achieved. In the absence of such a balance these goals could well be undermined. With trade on the one hand and local production and consumption regimes on the other, striking a balance between the two is the only way to create a win-win situation for Europe and the rest of the world.