Formally the Italian Republic, Italy shipped US$532.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 16.6% improvement since 2015 but a -2% decline from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, Italy uses the euro which appreciated by 0.9% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.5% from 2018 to 2019. The weaker EU currency in 2019 made Italy’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers compared to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 62.9% of products exported from Italy were bought by importers in: Germany (12.2% of the global total), France (10.5%), United States (9.6%), Switzerland (5.5%), United Kingdom (5.2%), Spain (5.1%), Belgium (3%), Poland (2.8%), China (2.7%), Netherlands (2.5%), Austria (2.2%) and Turkey (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, almost three-quarters (64.8%) of Italy’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 15.7% were sold to importers in Asia. Italy shipped another 11.3% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.6%), Latin America (2.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean then Oceania (1%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Italy’s population of 60.4 million people, its total $532.7 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $8,800 for every resident in the south European nation.
Italy’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Italian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Italy.
- Machinery including computers: US$101.1 billion (19% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $41.4 billion (7.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $33.6 billion (6.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $31.8 billion (6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $21.3 billion (4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $18.4 billion (3.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $17.8 billion (3.3%)
- Gems, precious metals: $15.4 billion (2.9%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $13.8 billion (2.6%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $13.8 billion (2.6%)
Italy’s top 10 exports accounted for 57.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Powered by stronger revenues from exported gold and platinum, gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories thanks to a 22.7% increase from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was pharmaceuticals via a 21.1% gain. Italy’s shipments of unknitted and non-crocheted clothing or accessories posted the only other appreciation, up by 0.4%.
The leading decliner among Italy’s top 10 export categories was vehicles dropping -7.7% year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Italy’s Most Valuable Export Products below.
Overall Italy posted a trade surplus in 2019 amounting to $59.2 billion, up by 34% from the $44.1 billion in black ink one year earlier.
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 reflect 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.
- Machinery including computers: US$54.7 billion (Down by -5.9% since 2018)
- Articles of iron or steel: $11.7 billion (Down by -6.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $9.8 billion (Down by -5.1%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $8.7 billion (Up by 2.5%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $8.2 billion (Up by 29.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $6.3 billion (Up by 513.3%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $5.3 billion (Down by -3.3%)
- Footwear: $5.3 billion (Up by 4.1%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $4.2 billion (Up by 8.4%)
- Ceramic products: $4.2 billion (Down by -7.5%)
Italy has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery–a product 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-$40.7 billion (Down by -16.4% since 2018)
- Organic chemicals: -$8.3 billion (Up by 0.7%)
- Vehicles: -$6.7 billion (Up by 11.2%)
- Iron, steel: -$6.1 billion (Down by -10.9%)
- Fish: -$4.7 billion (Down by -5.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.5 billion (Up by 19.8%)
- Meat: -$2.8 billion (Up by 5.5%)
- Copper: -$2.8 billion (Down by -14.8%)
- Cereals: -$2.7 billion (Up by 3.5%)
- Wood: -$2.2 billion (Down by -18%)
Italy has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products notably crude oil, petroleum gas, electrical energy, coal and peat.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Italy’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in cleaner alternative energy sources.
Italian Export Companies
Thirty corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Italian companies that Forbes included.
- Eni (oil, gas)
- Finmeccanica (aerospace)
- Parmalat (food processing)
- Pirelli & C (automotive parts)
- Prada (clothing, accessories)
- Prysmian (electrical equipment)
- Saras (oil, gas)
- Telecom Italia (telecommunications services)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Italian exporters:
- Acciaierie Valbruna (stainless steel bars, rods, doors, window frames)
- Chateau D AX (wood seats, chemicals)
- Emilceramica (ceramic tiles, building tiles)
Searchable List of Italy’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Italy during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Italy's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Medication mixes in dosage||$24,116,473,000||+24.5%|
|4||Processed petroleum oils||$13,886,105,000||-17.2%|
|5||Cases, handbags, wallets||$10,318,167,000||+19.9%|
|6||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$8,392,306,000||+13.8%|
|7||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$8,079,279,000||-1.5%|
|12||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$6,680,398,000||-4.2%|
|16||Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles, cubes||$4,383,614,000||-6.1%|
|17||Liquid pumps and elevators||$4,233,662,000||-6.1%|
|20||Air or vacuum pumps||$3,830,965,000||-3.5%|
|21||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$3,700,527,000||-3.5%|
|22||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$3,603,057,000||-5.3%|
|23||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$3,599,968,000||-8.3%|
|25||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$3,433,891,000||-5.6%|
|27||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$3,412,753,000||+6.4%|
|28||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$3,408,557,000||-2.9%|
|30||Miscellaneous plastic items||$3,219,413,000||-3%|
|32||Phone system devices||$3,109,515,000||-8.9%|
|35||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$2,744,468,000||-5.7%|
|36||Other animal leather||$2,693,873,000||-12.1%|
|37||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$2,677,839,000||-5.7%|
|38||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,609,485,000||+7.1%|
|39||Electrical converters/power units||$2,589,338,000||+3.4%|
|40||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$2,560,214,000||+17.7%|
|41||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$2,551,307,000||-9.6%|
|42||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$2,538,910,000||-3.2%|
|44||Piston engine parts||$2,464,359,000||-2.5%|
|45||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$2,348,377,000||+3.5%|
|46||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$2,330,563,000||-5.8%|
|47||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$2,313,092,000||-1.2%|
|48||Electric motors, generators||$2,278,064,000||-5.1%|
|49||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$2,244,926,000||-1.1%|
|51||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$2,095,411,000||+1.3%|
|53||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$2,077,264,000||-35.7%|
|54||Industrial preparation machinery||$2,028,796,000||-7.2%|
|56||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$1,913,842,000||-8%|
|57||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,906,205,000||-4.6%|
|58||Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs||$1,898,662,000||-5.3%|
|59||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,867,997,000||-18.2%|
|61||Computers, optical readers||$1,848,830,000||-3.8%|
|62||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,843,449,000||-0.3%|
|65||Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)||$1,794,560,000||+1.7%|
|66||T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)||$1,772,930,000||+6.4%|
|67||Iron or steel pipe fittings||$1,767,507,000||-7%|
|69||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$1,652,622,000||-3.4%|
|71||Other machine parts, accessories||$1,614,371,000||-2.9%|
|72||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,603,078,000||+3.2%|
|73||Rubber tires (new)||$1,597,424,000||-4.2%|
|74||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,596,613,000||-11.4%|
|75||Miscellaneous aluminum items||$1,595,953,000||-8.7%|
|76||Leather clothing, accessories||$1,592,508,000||+23.1%|
|78||Flat-rolled stainless steel items||$1,585,131,000||-3.2%|
|79||Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)||$1,559,832,000||+7.1%|
|81||Base metal mountings, fittings||$1,549,743,000||-6.7%|
|82||Ball, roller bearings||$1,485,391,000||-9.9%|
|83||Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances||$1,484,669,000||-6.8%|
|84||Monument/building stones, art||$1,483,529,000||-10.4%|
|86||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,455,466,000||-4.1%|
|91||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,407,143,000||-6.7%|
|92||Other food preparations||$1,403,160,000||+1.9%|
|93||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$1,382,879,000||+20.8%|
|94||Spectacle/goggle frames, mountings||$1,345,088,000||+1.1%|
|95||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$1,330,366,000||-2.9%|
|96||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$1,323,925,000||-5%|
|97||Machine-tool for metal||$1,312,428,000||-10%|
|98||Perfumes, toilet waters||$1,305,407,000||-1.3%|
|99||Assembling machine tools||$1,301,418,000||-11.1%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$328.3 billion or over three-fifths (61.6%) by value for all products exported from Italy during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Italy’s total exported goods represent 21.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($2.443 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 21.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 22.8% one year earlier. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Italy’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Italy’s average unemployment rate was 10.32% for 2019, down from 10.625% one year earlier according to the International Monetary Fund.
Italy’s capital city is Rome.
See also Italy’s Top Trading Partners, Italy’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Italy’s Top 10 Imports
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Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 20, 2020
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International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 20, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 20, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Italy. Accessed on March 20, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 20, 2020