Noted for photogenic coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea’s southeastern shore and the Red Sea’s northern shore, the State of Israel shipped US$61.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -10.2% decline since 2014 but a modest 1.2% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, 32.3% of Israeli exports by value were delivered to European countries while 29% were sold to North American importers. Israel shipped another 28.1% worth of goods to Asia, with smaller percentages going to Latin America (2.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (1.3%) and Oceania (1%) led by Australia.
Given Israel’s population of 8.4 million people, its total $61.9 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $7,400 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
In macroeconomic terms, Israel’s total exported goods represent 18.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($337.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 22.3% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Israel’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Israel also provided $49.9 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 14.8% 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. Israel’s unemployment rate was 3.6% at May 2019 down from 4% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Israel’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Israeli global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Israel.
- Gems, precious metals: US$14.9 billion (24% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.5 billion (13.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $5.6 billion (9.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.3 billion (8.6%)
- Machinery including computers: $4.9 billion (7.8%)
- Other chemical goods: $3.3 billion (5.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.9 billion (4.7%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $2.2 billion (3.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $1.4 billion (2.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.4 billion (2.3%)
Israel’s top 10 exports accounted for 81.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 59.5% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales was miscellaneous chemical goods which gained 17.6%.
Israeli electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest improvement thanks to its 14.2% uptick, trailed by optical, technical or medical apparatus up by 13.8%.
There were three declining categories namely aircraft and spacecraft (down -29.3%), pharmaceuticals (down -22.6%) then gems and precious metals (down -2.7%).
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Israel’s most valuable exported goods were unmounted diamonds (23.2% of total), medication mixes in dosage (7.3%), integrated circuits and microassemblies (5.3%), aircraft parts (3.5%), chemical industry products (3.1%) then mobile phones (2.9%).
The following types of Israeli 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$8 billion (Down by -2.5% since 2017)
- Pharmaceuticals: $3.2 billion (Down by -37.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $2.7 billion (Up by 22.8%)
- Other chemical goods: $2.4 billion (Up by 20.7%)
- Fertilizers: $1.2 billion (Up by 8.3%)
- Base metal tools, cutlery: $1 billion (Up by 27%)
- Arms, ammunition: $703.6 million (Down by -13.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $574 million (Up by 246.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $536.4 million (Down by -77.6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $529.3 million (Up by 0.8%)
Israel has highly positive net exports in the international trade of diamonds, jewelry and precious metals scrap. In turn, these cashflows indicate Israel’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals product category.
Overall, Israel incurred a -$14.7 billion product trade deficit for 2018 up by 84.3% from the -$8 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Israel that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Israel’s goods trail Israeli importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$8.4 billion (Up by 25.3% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$6.2 billion (Up by 10%)
- Machinery including computers: -$5 billion (Up by 6.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.6 billion (Up by 31.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$1 billion (Up by 11.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$932.5 million (Up by 31.9%)
- Cereals: -$922.2 million (Up by 10%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$779.7 million (Up by 10.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$728.9 million (Up by 6.8%)
- Wood: -$671.3 million (Up by 8.5%)
Israel has highly negative net exports and therefore a deep international trade deficit for crude and refined petroleum oils, coal then petroleum gas.
Israeli Export Companies
Ten Israeli corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the world-class Israeli companies that Forbes included:
- Bank Hapoalim (financial institution)
- Bank Leumi (financial institution)
- Check Point Software (information systems)
- Delek Group (investment services)
- FIBI Holdings (regional bank)
- IDB Holding (investment services)
- Israel Corp (investment services)
- Israel Discount Bank (regional bank)
- Mizrahi Tefahot Bank (regional bank)
- Teva Pharmaceutical (health care)
Shown within parentheses is the industry in which each country operates.
Israel’s capital city is Jerusalem.
See also Israel’s Top 10 Imports, Israel’s Top Trading Partners, Palestine’s Top 10 Exports and Lebanon’s Top 10 Exports
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 15, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 29, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 15, 2019
The World Factbook, Middle East: Israel. Accessed on March 15, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, Israel. Accessed on March 15, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Israel. Accessed on March 15, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Jerusalem, Israel. Accessed on March 15, 2019