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$569.1 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That dollar figure represents roughly 3.2% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion. Please note that Hong Kong’s export metrics include a sizable portion of re-exporting activity.
Applying a continental lens, over three-quarters (77.4%) of Hong Kong’s exports by value were shipped to Asian countries while 10.4% were sold to European importers. Hong Kong delivered another 9.2% worth of goods to North America.
At about 1% of the overall total, much smaller percentages were sent to each of Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa and Oceania 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 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Hong Kong exports.
- China: US$314.3 billion (55.2% of total Hong Kong exports)
- United States: $45.9 billion (8.1%)
- India: $17.9 billion (3.1%)
- Japan: $16.5 billion (2.9%)
- Thailand: $13.4 billion (2.4%)
- Singapore: $12.3 billion (2.2%)
- Taiwan: $11.7 billion (2.1%)
- Vietnam: $10.7 billion (1.9%)
- Germany: $9.7 billion (1.7%)
- Netherlands: $9.1 billion (1.6%)
- South Korea: $7.8 billion (1.4%)
- United Arab Emirates: $7.6 billion (1.3%)
- United Kingdom: $6.4 billion (1.1%)
- Macao: $6.3 billion (1.1%)
- Switzerland: $5.8 billion (1%)
Almost nine-tenths (87.1%) of Hong Kong exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Thanks to a 14.6% gain in value, Macao led the list of top importers for purchases from Hong Kong from 2017 to 2018. In second place was the Netherlands via a 11% improvement followed by the 10.1% gain in value for Singapore and the 8.1% expansion for the United States.
Leading the top importers cutting back on purchases from Hong Kong year over year was Switzerland (down -48.4%), United Kingdom (down -31.4%) then India (down -15%).
Overall Hong Kong incurred a -$58.2 billion trade deficit for 2018, a 47.6% increase from -$39.5 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$31.6 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Singapore: -$28.1 billion
- South Korea: -$27.8 billion
- Malaysia: -$19.7 billion
- Japan: -$18.3 billion
- Switzerland: -$10 billion
- Philippines: -$7.2 billion
- United Kingdom: -$3.6 billion
- Italy: -$3 billion
- Australia: -$2.5 billion
Among Hong Kong’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Hong Kong deficits with Switzerland (up 157.7%), Malaysia (up 77.7%) and South Korea (up 13.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
In addition, Hong Kong’s exchange of exports and imports with the United Kingdom went from a $1.3 billion surplus in 2017 to a -$3.6 billion trade deficit for the latest reporting period.
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$33.3 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- United States: $14.1 billion
- Netherlands: $6.4 billion
- India: $6.1 billion
- Macao: $5.4 billion
- Mexico: $3.4 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $3.1 billion
- Russia: $2.9 billion
- Germany: $2.8 billion
- Vietnam: $2.2 billion
Among Hong Kong’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Hong Kong surpluses with Russia (up 60.6%), United States (up 21.6%) and Mexico (up 18.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 17, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 17, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 17, 2019
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 17, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 17, 2019