Located in South America’s northwest area and sharing part of its northern border with Panama, the Republic of Colombia shipped US$41.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -23.8% setback compared to 2014 but a 10.6% improvement from 2017 to 2018.
Applying a continental lens, $13.5 billion in products or 32.4% of overall Colombian exports by value were delivered to North American countries. Close behind at 32.1% were buyers located in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. In third place was Europe, well ahead of importers in Africa (0.6%) and Oceania (0.2%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Colombia’s population of 48.2 million people, its total $41.8 billion in 2018 exports translates to about $870 for every resident in the South American sovereign state.
In macroeconomic terms, Colombia’s total exported goods represent 5.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($744.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 5.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 6.5% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Colombia’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Colombia also provided $9.3 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.2% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Colombia’s unemployment rate was 10.5% as of May 2019 up from 9.7% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Colombia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Colombian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Colombia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$24.2 billion (57.8% of total exports)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.3 billion (5.6%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.6 billion (3.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.5 billion (3.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.5 billion (3.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.1 billion (2.5%)
- Iron, steel: $650.8 million (1.6%)
- Vehicles: $645.7 million (1.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $623 million (1.5%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $518.3 million (1.2%)
Colombia’s top 10 exports accounted for over four-fifths (82.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 46.2% in value from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for Colombia’s improving export sales was vehicles via a 19.7% uptick.
Mineral fuels-related goods including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up 18.4%, propelled by accelerating revenues for crude oil and coal.
Gems and precious metals led the decliners thanks to its -18.6% drop year over year.
The following types of Colombian 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 represents 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$20.6 billion (Up by 23.6% since 2017)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.2 billion (Down by -12.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.6 billion (Down by -18.6%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.4 billion (Up by 4.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $823 million (Down by -4.2%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $410 million (Up by 2%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $63.5 million (Down by -34.6%)
- Cocoa: $47.1 million (Down by -21.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $43.1 million (Down by -9.7%)
- Live animals: $33.6 million (Up by 0.3%)
Colombia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related exports particularly crude oil and coal. In turn, these cashflows indicate Colombia’s strong competitive advantages under the oil product category.
Overall Colombia incurred a -$9.5 billion trade deficit during 2018, up 13.9% from the -$8.3 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Colombia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Colombia’s goods trail Colombian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$5.4 billion (Up by 7.3% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$5.3 billion (Up by 17.5%)
- Vehicles: -$3.7 billion (Up by 19.5%)
- Organic chemicals: -$2.1 billion (Up by 12.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$2 billion (Up by 11.1%)
- Cereals: -$1.7 billion (Up by 10.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.4 billion (Up by 11.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.2 billion (Up by 24.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.2 billion (Up by 28.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$973.2 million (Up by 26.8%)
Colombia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery particularly computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Colombia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Colombia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Colombian Export Companies
Six Colombian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Colombian companies that Forbes included:
- Ecopetrol (fuel, petrochemicals)
- Grupo Argos (construction materials)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Colombia. Selected examples are shown below:
- Alpina Productos Alimenticios (dairy products)
- Auteco (vehicles)
- Manuelita (sugar, fruits, vegetables)
- Organizacion Corona (ceramics)
- Ospina Coffee Company (coffee)
Colombia’s capital city is Bogotá.
See also Colombia’s Top Trading Partners, Colombia’s Top 10 Imports and Top South American Export Countries
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 12, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 29, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 12, 2019
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 12, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Colombia. Accessed on March 12, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019