Nicknamed Pearl of the Orient, Hong Kong is a special administrative region in the People’s Republic of China located on China’s south coast.
Hong Kong exported 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. Please note that Hong Kong’s export metrics include a sizable portion of re-exporting activity.
Applying a continental lens, 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.
Hong Kong’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Hong Kong’s top trading partners in terms of exports sales. That is, countries that imported the most Hong Kong shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Hong Kong exports.
- China: US$296.1 billion (55.3% of Hong Kong’s total exports)
- United States: $39.1 billion (7.3%)
- India: $15.5 billion (2.9%)
- Japan: $15.5 billion (2.9%)
- Taiwan: $11.6 billion (2.2%)
- Singapore: $10.8 billion (2%)
- Thailand: $10.4 billion (2%)
- Vietnam: $10.3 billion (1.9%)
- Germany: $8.9 billion (1.7%)
- Netherlands: $8.7 billion (1.6%)
- United Kingdom: $8.4 billion (1.6%)
- United Arab Emirates: $8.1 billion (1.5%)
- South Korea: $7.5 billion (1.4%)
- Macao: $6.7 billion (1.3%)
- Switzerland: $6 billion (1.1%)
Approaching nine-tenths (86.5%) of Hong Kong’s exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Four of these top customers increased their purchases from Hong Kong from 2018 to 2019 namely the United Kingdom (up 30.4%), Macao (up 7.1%), United Arab Emirates (also up 7.1%) and Switzerland (up 3.6%).
Leading year-over-year reductions belong to Thailand (down -22.3%), United States (down -14.7%), India (down -13.5%) and Singapore (down -12.7%).
Overall, Hong Kong incurred a -$42.9 billion trade deficit for 2019, a -26.4% shrinkage from -$58.2 billion in red ink one year earlier.
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.
Hong Kong incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Taiwan: -US$30.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- Singapore: -$26.9 billion
- South Korea: -$20.8 billion
- Japan: -$18.2 billion
- Malaysia: -$16.2 billion
- Philippines: -$5.4 billion
- Switzerland: -$4.5 billion
- Italy: -$3.1 billion
- France: -$2.2 billion
- United Kingdom: -$1.8 billion
Among Hong Kong’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, only Hong Kong’s deficits generated by Italy expanded from 2018 to 2019 via a 1.8% increase.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Hong Kong’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Hong Kong to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
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.
Hong Kong incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- China: US$31.5 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- United States: $11.8 billion
- Netherlands: $6.2 billion
- Macao: $5.6 billion
- India: $5.4 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $3.7 billion
- Mexico: $3.6 billion
- Russia: $2.5 billion
- Germany: $2.1 billion
- Czech Republic: $1.4 billion
Among Hong Kong’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Hong Kong’s surpluses with United Arab Emirates (up 16.2%), Mexico (up 4.6%) and Macao (up 4.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Hong Kong’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Hong Kong to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Major Hong Kong Companies Servicing Trading Partners
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)
See also Hong Kong’s Top 10 Exports, Hong Kong’s Top 10 Imports and Top Asian Export Countries
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 Trade Centre, Trade Map. 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
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 1, 2020