A South American nation occupying a long strip of land bordering with Argentina to its east, Peru to its north and Bolivia to its northeast, Chile shipped US$69.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects an 11.5% increase from 2015 to 2019 but an -8.4% reduction from 2018 to 2019.
Chile’s exported goods totaled $55.5 billion during the first 10 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $66.6 billion in exports for all 2020, Chile is on track for an estimated -3.7% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Chilean peso depreciated by -7.5% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -9.6% from 2018 to 2019. Chile’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 80.5% of products exported from Chile were bought by importers in: China (31.3% of the global total), United States (14.1%), Japan (9.2%), South Korea (6.6%), Brazil (4.6%), Peru (2.8%), Spain (2.4%), Netherlands (2.2%), Taiwan (also 2.2%), Mexico (1.9%), India (1.6%) and Switzerland (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, 54% of Chile’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 17.4% were sold to importers in North America. Chile shipped another 14.3% worth of goods to Europe with 12.2% sent to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Smaller percentages went to Africa (0.6%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.5%).
Given Chile’s population of 19.1 million people, the total $69.1 billion in 2019 Chilean exports translates to roughly $3,600 for every person in the Latin American nation.
Chile’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Chilean global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Chile.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$20 billion (29% of total exports)
- Copper: $14.9 billion (21.6%)
- Fish: $5.8 billion (8.4%)
- Fruits, nuts: $5.8 billion (8.4%)
- Woodpulp: $2.7 billion (3.9%)
- Wood: $2.3 billion (3.4%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $2.1 billion (3.1%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $2 billion (2.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.4 billion (2%)
- Meat: $1.1 billion (1.6%)
Chile’s top 10 exports accounted for 84.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 33.1% from 2018 to 2019. The only other product category to increase was Chile’s exported meat via a 17.4% gain.
The leading decliner among Chile’s top 10 export categories was woodpulp thanks to a -24.6% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Chile’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
Overall Chile earned a $5 billion trade surplus in 2019, up 288.4% from the $1.3 billion in black ink for 2018.
As of June 2019, Chile’s trade surplus stood at $6 billion. That’s a 131.2% improvement compared to the first 6 months of 2018.
The following types of Chilean 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 equal 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.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$19.7 billion (Down by -5.6% since 2018)
- Copper: $14.8 billion (Down by -17.6%)
- Fish: $5.7 billion (Down by -2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $5.5 billion (Down by -9.1%)
- Woodpulp: $2.7 billion (Down by -25%)
- Wood: $2.1 billion (Down by -9.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.5 billion (Down by -5.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.3 billion (Up by 35.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $1.1 billion (Down by -17.5%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $355.6 million (Down by -7.9%)
Chile has highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper, molybdenum, iron and zinc ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Chile’s strong competitive advantages for these essential construction materials under the ores, slag and ash category.
Below are exports from Chile that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Chile’s goods trail Chilean importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US-$10.5 billion (Down by -9.6% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$7.9 billion (Down by -4.5%)
- Vehicles: -$7 billion (Down by -27.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$5.7 billion (Down by -19.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.9 billion (Down by -13.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.5 billion (Up by 7.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.3 billion (Down by -5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$1.2 billion (Down by -12.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.1 billion (Down by -0.9%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$1.1 billion (Down by -19.8%)
Chile has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products, particularly petroleum oils, gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Chile’s competitive disadvantages in the international fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Chile to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations particularly for alternative energy sources.
Chilean Export Companies
According to Forbes Global 2000 rankings, the following 8 companies are examples of major Chilean export companies.
- AntarChile (investment services)
- BCI-Banco Credito (regional bank)
- Cencosud (food retail)
- CorpBanca (regional bank)
- Falabella (department stores)
- Latam Airlines (airline)
- Quinenco (investment conglomerate)
- SQM Materials (diversified chemicals)
Searchable List of Chile’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Chile during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Chile's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Copper ores, concentrates||$17,955,582,000||-3.9%|
|2||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$13,277,302,000||-14.4%|
|3||Fish fillets, pieces||$2,750,121,000||+0.2%|
|4||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$2,718,204,000||-24.6%|
|6||Whole fish (frozen)||$1,805,487,000||-1.4%|
|8||Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums||$1,379,497,000||-1%|
|9||Molybdenum ores, concentrates||$1,335,993,000||-9%|
|11||Grapes (fresh or dried)||$1,104,759,000||-20.4%|
|12||Whole fish (fresh)||$893,623,000||+3.4%|
|15||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$755,783,000||-13.6%|
|16||Apples, pears (fresh)||$727,823,000||-12.5%|
|17||Iron ores, concentrates||$649,513,000||-33.3%|
|21||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$397,966,000||+0.2%|
|23||Frozen fruits, nuts||$384,239,000||+3.6%|
|24||Cases, handbags, wallets||$359,769,000||+1060%|
|25||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$353,528,000||-19.8%|
|26||Fresh or dried citrus fruit||$318,530,000||-15.7%|
|27||Hydrazine, inorganic salts||$317,024,000||-3.6%|
|28||Fiberboard of ligneous materials including wood||$316,198,000||-1.6%|
|31||Inedible meat flour||$300,742,000||-20.9%|
|32||Rubber tires (new)||$299,940,000||-5.5%|
|33||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$290,451,000||-7.9%|
|37||Processed petroleum oils||$204,573,000||-58.1%|
|38||Other food preparations||$204,559,000||-12.6%|
|39||Sowing seeds, fruits, spores||$201,836,000||-1.2%|
|42||Fruit and vegetable juices||$190,475,000||-17.9%|
|45||Medication mixes in dosage||$161,391,000||+3.9%|
|46||Salt, pure sodium chloride||$156,465,000||-18.5%|
|48||Alloy steel bars, rods||$142,369,000||+16.2%|
|49||Miscellaneous preserved fruits||$139,887,000||-17%|
|50||Jams, fruit jellies, fruit/nut pastes||$136,666,000||-6.7%|
|52||Fish/marine mammal fats and oils||$123,826,000||-7.7%|
|54||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$117,511,000||+3.7%|
|55||Vegetable saps, extracts||$111,167,000||+1.4%|
|57||Iron or steel scrap||$104,567,000||-8.1%|
|58||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$104,084,000||+5.9%|
|60||Phone system devices||$101,320,000||+9.6%|
|62||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$94,896,000||-13.8%|
|68||Copper waste, scrap||$78,585,000||-34.3%|
|70||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$78,213,000||-17.4%|
|71||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$75,048,000||-20.3%|
|73||Red meat offal||$73,507,000||+38.9%|
|74||Computers, optical readers||$71,771,000||+220.8%|
|76||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$70,062,000||-1.7%|
|77||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$68,101,000||-11.4%|
|78||Metal-containing ash, residues||$65,593,000||+193.9%|
|80||Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)||$64,109,000||+2.9%|
|81||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$62,996,000||+4.7%|
|82||Miscellaneous fish for human consumption||$57,859,000||-10.1%|
|84||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$55,981,000||-10%|
|86||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$53,169,000||-20.8%|
|90||Uncoated kraft paper||$48,223,000||+8.6%|
|93||Onions, garlic, leeks||$42,019,000||+26.6%|
|94||Boron oxides, boric acids||$41,580,000||-10.5%|
|95||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$41,387,000||+4.7%|
|97||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$38,842,000||-37.5%|
|98||Safety/detonating fuses, caps, igniters||$37,638,000||+8.6%|
|99||Self-adhesive plastic in rolls||$37,474,000||-9.9%|
|100||Aluminum waste, scrap||$36,793,000||-19.2%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$63.9 billion or 92.4% by value for all products exported from Chile during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Chile’s total exported goods represent 13.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($502.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 13.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 15.7% for 2018. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Chile’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Chile’s unemployment rate was 11.6% at October 2020, up from an average 6.893% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Chile’s capital city is Santiago.
See also Chile’s Top 10 Imports, Chile’s Top Trading Partners and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on December 16, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on December 16, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on December 16, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on December 16, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on December 16, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on December 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on December 16, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Chile. Accessed on December 16, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on December 16, 2020