A tiny constitutional monarchy located in the Persian Gulf, the Kingdom of Bahrain shipped an estimated US$17.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -24.8% decline since 2014 but a 19.7% increase from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific prorated data from 2018 shows that 54.4% of products exported from Bahrain were bought by importers in: Saudi Arabia (16.9% of the global total), United Arab Emirates (7.8%), United States (6%), Oman (5.8%), Egypt (4.6%), China (2.9%), India (2.8%), Kuwait (2.2%), Turkey (2.2%), South Korea (1.1%), Taiwan (1%) and Netherlands (1%).
From a continental perspective and based on prorated 2018 data, 72.2% of Bahrain’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 11% were sold to African importers. Bahrain shipped another 9.3% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Europe (5.7%), Oceania (0.9%) led by Australia then Latin America (0.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Bahrain’s population of 1.44 million people, its total $17.9 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $12,400 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
In macroeconomic terms, Bahrain’s total exported goods represent 10.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($74.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 10.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 12.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bahrain’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Bahrain also provided $11.9 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 16.1% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bahrain’s unemployment rate was forecast to be 3.9% at July 2019, as projected by Trading Economics.
Bahrain’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bahraini global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Bahrain.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$10.4 billion (58.5% of total exports)
- Aluminum: $2.1 billion (11.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $991 million (5.5%)
- Iron, steel: $695.6 million (3.9%)
- Vehicles: $403.3 million (2.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $341.9 million (1.9%)
- Machinery including computers: $295.1 million (1.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $241 million (1.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $188.2 million (1.1%)
- Fertilizers: $187.5 million (1%)
Bahrain’s top 10 exports accounted for 88.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 83.4% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil which was up by 30.6%, led by both crude and refined petroleum oils.
Bahrain’s shipments of fertilizers: posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 30.6%.
The leading decliner among Bahrain’s top 10 export categories was vehicles thanks to an -18% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, refined petroleum oils represent Bahrain’s most valuable exported product at 34.1% of the country’s total. In second place was crude oil (24.2%) trailed by iron ores and concentrates (5.5%), aluminum wire (4.5%), unwrought aluminum (3.7%), aluminum plates, sheets and strips (2%), semi-finished iron or non-alloy steel products (1.7%) then cars (1.6%).
The following types of Bahraini product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$4.3 billion (Up by 24.8% since 2017)
- Aluminum: $1.7 billion (Up by 4.9%)
- Iron, steel: $348.1 million (Up by 1251.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $246.8 million (Down by -42.8%)
- Fertilizers: $186 million (Up by 30.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $111.3 million (Up by 14.4%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $51.4 million (Up by 3.4%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $48.3 million (Up by 209.4%)
- Glass: $21.7 million (Down by -1.3%)
- Nickel: $8.6 million (Reversing a -$1.7 million deficit)
Bahrain has positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels including oil, mostly refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bahrain’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Overall Bahrain incurred a -$2.7 billion trade deficit for 2018, up by 10.7% from -$2.5 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Bahrain that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Bahrain’s goods trail Bahraini importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$1.7 billion (Up by 28.8% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.4 billion (Up by 6.8%)
- Vehicles: -$949.2 million (Up by 14.1%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$931.7 million (Up by 95.5%)
- Ships, boats: -$457 million (Up by 2.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$347.9 million (Up by 2.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$331.2 million (Up by 21.1%)
- Meat: -$233.2 million (Up by 2.6%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$204.2 million (Down by -0.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$200.5 million (Up by 35.5%)
Bahrain has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category, notably turbojets, computers and air or vacuum pumps.
Bahraini Export Companies
Two Bahraini regional banks rank among Forbes Global 2000 corporations, namely Ahli United Bank and Arab Banking.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Bahrain. Selected examples are shown below:
- Al Baraka Banking Group (investment banking)
- Aluminium Bahrain (aluminum and related products)
- Bahrain Petroleum Company (oil, gas)
- Banagas (natural gas)
- DHL International Aviation ME (cargo transportation)
- Fakhro Group (industrial conglomerate)
- Nass Corporation B.S.C. (construction materials)
- Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo (travel, shipping, technology conglomerate)
Bahrain’s capital city is Manama, a name meaning “place of rest” or “place of dreams” in Arabic.
See also Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports, Jordan’s Top 10 Exports and Top Middle Eastern Export Countries
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Bahrain. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 18, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 18, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 18, 2019
The World Factbook, Middle East: Bahrain. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 18, 2019
Wikipedia, Bahrain. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 18, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Bahrain. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 18, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Manama, Bahrain. Accessed on March 18, 2019