In addition to its close proximity to Drake Passage near South America’s southerly tip, Chile shares borders with Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast and Argentina to the east.
Chile shipped US$67.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 17% increase from 2016 to 2020 but a -2.3% reduction from 2019 to 2020.
Applying a continental lens, well over half (57.7%) of Chile’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 16.8% were sold to importers in North America.
Smaller percentages went to Europe (12.2%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (11.5%), Africa (0.5%) and Oceania led by Australia (0.46%).
Chile’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Chile’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Chilean shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each importing country’s percentage of Chile’s total exported products.
- China: US$25.1 billion (37.2% of Chile’s total exports)
- United States: $9.4 billion (13.9%)
- Japan: $5.9 billion (8.7%)
- South Korea: $4 billion (5.9%)
- Brazil: $3 billion (4.4%)
- Peru: $1.6 billion (2.4%)
- Netherlands: $1.3 billion (1.9%)
- Taiwan: $1.2 billion (1.7%)
- Spain: $1.1 billion (1.6%)
- Mexico: $1.1 billion (1.6%)
- Germany: $939.6 million (1.4%)
- Canada: $910.3 million (1.3%)
- Switzerland: $850.5 million (1.3%)
- India: $811.9 million (1.2%)
- France: $768.4 million (1.1%)
Well over four-fifths (85.6%) of Chilean exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
China (up 15.8%) and Germany (up 1.6%) were the only top importers that increased purchases from Chile from 2019 to 2020.
Among the other 13 countries, decreases ranged from a minimum of -3.7% for trade with the United States to a -36.7% reduction with Spain year over year.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Chile incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Argentina: -US$2.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Germany: -$1.3 billion
- Brazil: -$1.2 billion
- Paraguay: -$602.5 million
- United States: -$540.7 million
- Italy: -$522.5 million
- Vietnam: -$503.4 million
- Mexico: -$495.3 million
- Ecuador: -$443.1 million
- Colombia: -$435.9 million
Among Chile’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Chilean deficits with Vietnam (up 15%) and Paraguay (up 7.1%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Chile’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Chile to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall Chile earned a $12.2 billion trade surplus in 2020, up 143.5% from the $5 billion in black ink for 2019.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Chile incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- China: US$10 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Japan: $4.9 billion
- South Korea: $3.1 billion
- Taiwan: $961.9 million
- Netherlands: $892.7 million
- Russia: $642 million
- Switzerland: $602.8 million
- Peru: $537 million
- United Arab Emirates: $241.1 million
- Bolivia: $178.2 million
Among Chile’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Chilean surpluses with United Arab Emirates (up 42.9%), China (up 41.6%) and Japan (up 14.2%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Chile’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Chile to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Chilean Trading Partners
According to Forbes Global 2000 rankings, the following 8 companies are examples of leading Chilean 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)
See also Chile’s Top 10 Exports, Chile’s Top 10 Imports and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 2, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 2, 2021