Italy’s top 10 exports accounted for 57.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Italy’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $2.221 trillion in 2016. Therefore, exports accounted for about 20.8% of total Italian economic output.
From a continental perspective, 63.5% of Italian exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 17% are sold to Asian importers. Italy ships another 10.6% worth of products to North America with 4.1% sent to clients in Africa.
Given Italy’s population of 62 million people, its total $461.6 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $7,500 for every resident in that country.
Italy’s unemployment rate was 11.9% as of January 2017 up from 11.5% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Italy’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Italian global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Italy.
- Machinery including computers: US$92.4 billion (20% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $39.4 billion (8.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $27.7 billion (6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $21.2 billion (4.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $19 billion (4.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $16.2 billion (3.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $13 billion (2.8%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $12.6 billion (2.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $12.1 billion (2.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $11.8 billion (2.6%)
Pharmaceuticals were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 42.7% in value for the 7-year period starting in 2009.
In second place were Italy’s vehicle exports up 39.8% led by cars.
Optical, technical and medical apparatus place third up 25.3% followed by exported plastics’ 18.2% gain.
There were two declining categories. Weighted down by lower revenues from refined petroleum oils in particular, mineral fuels including oil fell in value by -12.7% from 2009 to 2016. Italy’s exported iron or steel products dropped by -9%.
The following types of Italian 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 is 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.
Overall, Italy posted a trade surplus in 2016 amounting to $57 billion reversing a -$8.3 billion deficit for 2009.
- Machinery including computers: US$51.5 billion (Up by 6.5% since 2009)
- Articles of iron or steel: $10.9 billion (Down by -13.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $9.3 billion (Down by -3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $7 billion (Up by 39.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $5 billion (Up by 31.3%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.8 billion (Up by 152.2%)
- Footwear: $4.6 billion (Up by 16.6%)
- Ceramic products: $4.3 billion (Up by 12.4%)
- Ships, boats: $4.1 billion (Up by 25.8%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $3.4 billion (Up by 12.5%)
Italy has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery–a category that includes computers. In turn, these cashflows indicate Italy’s strong competitive advantages in producing machinery for international markets.
Below are exports from Italy that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Italy’s goods trail Italian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$28.9 billion (Down by -50.5% since 2009)
- Organic chemicals: -$6.9 billion (Down by -12.8%)
- Fish: -$4.4 billion (Up by 29.8%)
- Vehicles : -$4.1 billion (Down by -71.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$3.8 billion (Down by -3.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.6 billion (Down by -43.7%)
- Meat: -$2.4 billion (Down by -38%)
- Wood: -$2.3 billion (Down by -22.4%)
- Cereals: -$2.3 billion (Up by 31.4%)
- Copper: -$2 billion (Down by -1.7%)
Italy has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products notably crude oil, petroleum gas, electrical energy and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Italy’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in cleaner alternative energy sources.
Italian Export Companies
Thirty corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a sample of the major Italian companies that Forbes included:
- Eni (oil, gas)
- Telecom Italia (telecommunications services)
- Finmeccanica (aerospace)
- Prada (clothing, accessories)
- Pirelli & C (automotive parts)
- Saras (oil, gas)
- Parmalat (food processing)
- Prysmian (electrical equipment)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Italian exporters:
- Emilceramica (ceramic tiles, building tiles)
- Chateau D AX (wood seats, chemicals)
- Acciaierie Valbruna (stainless steel bars, rods, doors, window frames)
Italy’s capital city is Rome.
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.
See also Italy’s Top Trading Partners, Highest Value Italian Export Products, Italy’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Italy’s Top 10 Imports
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 23, 2017
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 23, 2017
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 23, 2017
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 23, 2017
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 28, 2016