Exports from Iraq totaled an estimated US$97.3 billion in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 15.1% increase since 2014 and a 40.5% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
Based on the latest available country-specific data dating back to 2015, 89.7% of products exported from Iraq were bought by importers in: China (23.9% of the global total), India (21.4%), South Korea (11.8%), United States (8.6%), Italy (7.1%), Greece (6.5%), Netherlands (3.5%), Taiwan (2.6%), Spain (2.4%) and Singapore (1.9%).
Given Iraq’s population of 39.2 million people, its total $64.6 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $1,600 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
In macroeconomic terms, Iraq’s total exported goods represent 14.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($673.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 14.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 17.7% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Iraq’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Iraq also provided $5.6 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 0.8% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Iraq’s unemployment rate was forecasted to be 14.7% for 2018 down from 14.8% in 2017, according to Trading Economics.
Iraq’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iraqi global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iraq.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$95.8 billion (98.5% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.3 billion (1.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $78.5 million (0.1%)
- Aluminum: $33.1 million (0.03%)
- Copper: $24.4 million (0.03%)
- Woodpulp: $23.0 million (0.02%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $20.7 million (0.02%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $11.9 million (0.01%)
- Organic chemicals: $9.3 million (0.01%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $5.8 million (0.01%)
Iraq’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.96% of the overall value of its global shipments, a metric showing that Iraqi export products are heavily concentrated in petroleum-related products.
Organic chemicals were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 186,800% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was copper thanks to its 602% increase.
Iraq’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 43.1% year over year.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Iraq export categories was electrical machinery and equipment which fell -75.9%
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Iraq’s most valuable exported product at 94.9% of the country’s total. In second place was processed petroleum oils (3.4%) trailed by unprocessed gold (1.3%).
Iraq posted an estimated $66.1 billion trade surplus for 2018, up 252.5% from one year earlier.
The following types of Iraqi 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$94.6 billion (Up by 44.8% since 2017)
- Gems, precious metals: $103 million (Reversing a -$2.4 billion deficit)
- Woodpulp: $22.5 million (Down by -28.4%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $20.7 million (Down by -29.7%)
- Lead: $3.7 million (Up by 122.5%)
- Wool: $545,000 (Reversing a -$4.3 million deficit)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $440,000 (Up by 1.9%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $174,000 (Down by -81.7%)
Iraq has highly positive net exports in the international trade of oil well ahead of its surplus for gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iraq’s strong competitive advantages under the petroleum product category. The flipside of the coin is that Iraq’s international trade scorecard depends heavily on global oil prices and, lacking product diversification, is vulnerable to petroleum-specific downturns.
Below are exports from Iraq that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Iraq’s goods trail Iraqi importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: US-$3.4 billion (Down by -25.7% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.6 billion (Down by -59.6%)
- Vehicles: -$1.8 billion (Down by -35.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.2 billion (Down by -21.5%)
- Cereals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 38.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Down by -7.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -56.6%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$1 billion (Down by -4.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$968.7 million (Down by -19.2%)
- Meat: -$779.8 million (Down by -9.1%)
Iraq has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery products.
Iraqi Export Companies
Not one Iraqi corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list major companies from Iraq, some of which are active participants in international trade. Selected examples are shown below:
- Iraq National Oil Company (crude oil, natural gas)
- Iraqi Airways Company (domestic/regional airliner)
- Iraqi Oil Tankers Company (maritime transport of petroleum)
- Trade Bank of Iraq (trade deal financing)
Nicknamed the City of Peace, Baghdad is the capital city for the Republic of Iraq.
See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Egypt’s Top 10 Exports and South Africa’s Top 10 Exports
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 29, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 6, 2019
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 29, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 6, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 29, 2018
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 6, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iraq. Accessed on May 29, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 6, 2019