Formerly a British Empire colony and now formally called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong shipped US$535.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 4.9% gain since 2015 but a -5.9% downtick from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Hong Kong dollar has depreciated by -1.1% against the US dollar since 2015 but appreciated by 0.03% from 2018 to 2019. Weaker local currency in Hong Kong since 2014 make exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive in 2019. Hong Kong exports are slightly costlier from 2018 to 2019 for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 82.8% of products exported from Hong Kong were bought by importers in: China (55.3% of the global total), United States (7.3%), India (2.9%), Japan (2.9%), Taiwan (2.2%), Singapore (2%), Thailand (also 2%), Vietnam (1.9%), Germany (1.7%), Netherlands (1.6%), United Kingdom (also 1.6%) and United Arab Emirates (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, over three-quarters (77.6%) of Hong Kong’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 10.8% were sold to importers in Europe. Hong Kong shipped another 8.6% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Latin America (1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (also 1%) then Oceania (0.9%) led by Australia.
Given Hong Kong’s population of 7.6 million people, its total $535.7 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $70,900 for every resident in the Chinese administrative territory.
Hong Kong’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Hong Kong global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Hong Kong.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$300.9 billion (56.2% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $70.5 billion (13.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $54.1 billion (10.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.9 billion (3.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $9.1 billion (1.7%)
- Clocks, watches including parts: $8.2 billion (1.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $6.2 billion (1.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $5.5 billion (1%)
- Toys, games: $5.5 billion (1%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.4 billion (0.8%)
Hong Kong’s top 10 exports accounted for 90% of the overall value of its global shipments.
All top 10 product categories declined from 2018 to 2019. The smallest decreases belong to optical, technical and medical apparatus (down -2.1%) and electrical machinery and equipment (down -2.9%).
The most severe declines were for the toy and games category (down -24.2%) and gems or precious metals (down -20.6%).
From the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Hong Kong’s most valuable exported products are electronic circuits and microassemblies (25.1% of its total) trailed by mobile phones (13.9%). Other top exported goods from Hong Kong also include gold (4.7%), computer parts or accessories (4.5%), computers including optical readers (3.9%), unmounted diamonds (2.6%), solar power diodes and semi-conductors (also 2.6%), electrical converters and power units (1.8%), printed circuits (also 1.8%) then lower-voltage switches and fuses (1.6%).
The following types of Hong Kong 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.
1. Machinery including computers: US$4.2 billion (9.7% of total exports)
2. Toys, games: $1.3 billion (3.1%)
3. Glass: $1 billion (2.4%)
4. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $898.9 million (2.1%)
5. Plastics, plastic articles: $805 million (1.9%)
6. Books, newspapers, pictures: $516.4 million (1.2%)
7. Special woven/tufted fabric, embroidery: $386.7 million (0.9%)
8. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $302.5 million (0.7%)
9. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $285.6 million (0.7%)
10. Other base metal goods: $266.3 million (0.6%)
Hong Kong had highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery in 2019. In turn, these cashflows indicate Hong Kong’s strong competitive advantages under the machinery including computers category.
Overall, Hong Kong incurred a -$42.9 billion trade deficit for 2019, a -26.4% reduction from -$58.2 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Hong Kong that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Hong Kong’s goods trail spending on foreign products by importers in Hong Kong.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$13.8 billion (Down by -8.8% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$6.8 billion (Down by -62.5%)
- Meat: -$4.2 billion (Up by 8.1%)
- Fish: -$2.5 billion (Down by -12.3%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: -$2.4 billion (Down by -27.8%)
- Vehicles: -$2.3 billion (Down by -17%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: -$2.3 billion (Up by 38.5%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$1.9 billion (Down by -9.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$1.5 billion (Down by -9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.3 billion (Down by -3.2%)
Hong Kong has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably for refined petroleum oils, petroleum gas and electricity under the mineral fuels including oil category.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Hong Kong’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Hong Kong to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Hong Kong Export Companies
Fifty-eight corporations based in Hong Kong ranked on the Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Hong Kong companies that Forbes included:
- Belle International Holdings (clothing, footwear)
- China Agri-Industries (diversified chemicals)
- China Mengniu Dairy (food processing)
- Chow Tai Fook Jewellery (clothing accessories)
- Citic Pacific (iron, steel)
- CNOOC (oil, gas)
- Lenovo Group (computer hardware)
- Michael Kors Holdings (clothing accessories)
- TPV Technology (computer storage devices)
- ZTE (communications equipment)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following are smaller exporting firms from Hong Kong:
- E Bo Toys (tricycles, other wheeled toys)
- Fine Ceramic (ceramic kitchenware/tableware)
- Forever Bright Lighting (chandeliers, light fittings)
- Perfect Electronic (burglar/fire alarms)
- Wieson Technologies (electric switches, protectors, conductors, connectors)
In macroeconomic terms, Hong Kong’s total exported goods represent 109.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($490.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars) and include a high level of reexporting. That 109.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 118.4% one year earlier. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Hong Kong’s total economic performance albeit based on a very short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Hong Kong’s average unemployment rate was 2.944% for 2019 up from 2.809% in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund.
As a Special Administrative “Region” of China, Hong Kong serves as its own capital city per se.
See also Hong Kong’s Top Trading Partners and Hong Kong’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 1, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 1, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 1, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Hong Kong. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Wikipedia, List of companies of Hong Kong. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 1, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 1, 2020