Located near South America’s mid-western coastline, the Plurinational State of Bolivia shipped an estimated US$7.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -15.8% decline since 2015 and a -17.9% drop from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data from 2018 shows that 86% of products exported from Bolivia were bought by importers in: Brazil (19.2% of the global total), Argentina (16%), India (8.1%), Japan (7.5%), South Korea (6.4%), United States (5.6%), Colombia (5.2%), China (5.1%), Peru (4.1%), United Arab Emirates (4%), Netherlands (2.7%) and Canada (2.2%).
From a continental perspective, 48.6% of Bolivia’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Latin American nations excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean countries while 32.5% were sold to importers in Asia. Bolivia shipped another 8.8% worth of goods to Europe and 8% to North America. Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia (1.9%) and Africa (0.03%).
Given Bolivia’s population of 11.6 million people, its total $7.4 billion worth of 2019 exports translates to roughly $650 for each resident in the South American country.
Bolivia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bolivian global shipments during 2019 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Bolivia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$2.6 billion (35.5% of total exports)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.6 billion (21.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (16.7%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $487.2 million (6.6%)
- Tin: $326.7 million (4.4%)
- Fruits, nuts: $215.3 million (2.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $132.1 million (1.8%)
- Cereals: $112.6 million (1.5%)
- Fertilizers: $90.6 million (1.2%)
- Oil seeds: $78.4 million (1.1%)
Bolivia’s top 10 exports accounted for 93.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fertilizers represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 33.7% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was cereals via a 25.6%gain led by quinoa. Bolivia’s shipments of tin posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 2.7%.
The leading decliner among Bolivia’s top 10 export categories was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes, thanks to a -55.1% drop year over year.
Drilling down to the more granular 4-digit HTS codes, Bolivia’s most valuable export products are petroleum gases (35.5% of total) trailed by gold (13.4%), zinc ores and concentrates (12.7%), soya-bean oil cake plus other solid residues (6.4%), unprocessed tin (4.4%), lead ores and concentrates (3.9%) and precious metal ores and concentrates (also 3.9%).
Overall, Bolivia generated an estimated $1.5 billion surplus in 2019, reversing a -$1 billion deficit one year earlier.
The following types of Bolivian 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$2.3 billion (Up by 29.5% since 2018)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.6 billion (Down by -32.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (Down by -9.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $450.9 million (Down by -9.4%)
- Tin: $326.4 million (Up by 2.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $198 million (Down by -14.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $119.9 million (Down by -56.5%)
- Cereals: $82.1 million (Up by 95.7%)
- Oil seeds: $59.3 million (Up by 2.4%)
- Fertilizers: $55.5 million (Up by 296.8%)
Bolivia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bolivia’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Below are exports from Bolivia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Bolivia’s goods trail Bolivian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$795.2 million (Down by -58.6% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$782.3 million (Down by -24.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$527.6 million (Down by -33%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$301 million (Down by -38.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$296.7 million (Down by -36%)
- Other chemical goods: -$219.8 million (Down by -40.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$206 million (Down by -37.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$164 million (Up by 4.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$159.3 million (Down by -21.2%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: -$152.5 million (Down by -11.7%)
Bolivia has highly negative net exports and therefore competitive disadvantages for computers and other types of machinery including steam turbines and turbo-jets.
Bolivian Export Companies
Not one Bolivian corporation ranks among companies listed by Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists some exports-related companies from Bolivia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz (financial services)
- Banco Nacional de Bolivia (financial services)
- Boliviana de Aviación (airlines)
- Línea Aérea Amaszonas (airlines)
- Transportes Aéreos Bolivianos (air cargo)
- YPFB (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Bolivia’s total exported goods represent 7.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($94.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 10.7% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bolivia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bolivia’s average unemployment rate was 4% for 2019, up from 3.493% according to the International Monetary Fund.
Bolivia has two capital cities. La Paz is the de facto working capital, while Sucre is constitutionally the legal capital city.
See also Brazil’s Top Trade Partners, Brazil’s Top 10 Imports and Bolivia’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Imports – Commodities. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 16, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 16, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Bolivia. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Airlines of Bolivia. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Category: Banks of Bolivia. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Oil and Gas Companies of Bolivia. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 16, 2020