South of fellow Scandinavian nations Sweden and Norway while sharing its own southern border with Germany, the Kingdom of Denmark shipped US$107.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -2.8% drop since 2014 but a 5.9% increase from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, roughly three-quarters of Danish exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries. Another 12.6% were sold to Asian importers with 6.2% going to North America. Smaller percentages of Danish exports were delivered to buyers in Oceania (1.6%) led by Australia and Marshall Islands, Latin America (1.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Africa (1.2%).
Given Denmark’s population of 5.8 million people, its total $107.6 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $18,500 for every resident in the northern European country.
In macroeconomic terms, Denmark’s total exported goods represent 35.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($301.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 35.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 41.3% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Denmark’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Denmark also provided $69.6 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 23.1% 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. Denmark’s unemployment rate was 3.7% at May 2019–its lowest level since February 2009 according to Trading Economics.
Denmark’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Danish global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Denmark.
- Machinery including computers: US$14.6 billion (13.5% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $14.4 billion (13.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.7 billion (8.1%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $5.4 billion (5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $4.2 billion (3.9%)
- Meat: $3.6 billion (3.4%)
- Vehicles: $3.1 billion (2.9%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $3 billion (2.8%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.9 billion (2.7%)
- Fish: $2.9 billion (2.7%)
Denmark’s top 10 exports accounted for 58.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 15.4% in value from 2017 to 2018.
In second place was Denmark’s exported pharmaceuticals via its 11.4% gain, trailed by the 7.5% increase for vehicles category.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Denmark’s most valuable exported products are medication mixes in dosage, refined petroleum oils, pork, electric generating sets or converters, cheese and curd, miscellaneous furniture, taps and valves, miscellaneous enzymes then crude oil.
Overall Denmark earned a $6.5 billion trade surplus in 2018, down by 30.6% from the $9.4 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Danish 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.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$10 billion (Up by 12.7% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: $2.7 billion (Down by -6.5%)
- Meat: $2.5 billion (Down by -5.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.1 billion (Up by 0.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.4 billion (Up by 1.6%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $1.4 billion (Up by 7.6%)
- Live animals: $1.2 billion (Down by -13.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $911.4 million (Up by 40.1%)
- Fish: $788.6 million (Up by 22.1%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $734.5 million (Up by 0.1%)
Denmark has highly positive net exports in the international trade of drugs and medicines. In turn, these cashflows indicate Denmark’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals product category.
Below are exports from Denmark that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Denmark’s goods trail Danish importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: -US$5.3 billion (Up by 11.2% since 2017)
- Ships, boats: -$2.6 billion (Up by 77.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.5 billion (Up by 6.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$1.4 billion (Up by 89.8%)
- Wood: -$1.4 billion (Up by 25.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$739.3 million (Up by 91.8%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$720.9 million (Up by 21.3%)
- Paper, paper items: -$698.9 million (Up by 14.8%)
- Iron, steel: -$689.7 million (Up by 9.4%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$473.6 million (Up by 5.5%)
Denmark has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the vehicles category particularly for cars, trucks, trailers, tractors and even bicycles.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Denmark’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market, but also represent key opportunities for Denmark to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations on alternative transportation means.
Danish Export Companies
Fourteen Danish corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a sample of the major Danish companies that Forbes included:
- A.P. Moller-Maersk Group (transportation, energy)
- Carlsberg (beverages)
- Coloplast (medical equipment, supplies)
- DSV (transportation, logistics)
- Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals)
- Novozymes (biotechs)
- TDC (telecommunications services)
- Vestas Wind Systems (electrical equipment)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Denmark. Selected examples are shown below:
- Arla Foods (dairy products)
- House of Amber (jewelry)
- Kopenhagen Fur (fur clothing, accessories)
- Lego Group (toys)
- Pharma Nord (pharmaceuticals)
- Royal Copenhagen (porcelain)
- Tuborg (brewery)
Denmark’s capital city is Copenhagen.
See also Denmark’s Top 10 Imports and Denmark’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 16, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 28, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Denmark. Accessed on March 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Denmark. Accessed on March 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 28, 2019