Nicknamed The Boot based on the country’s geographic shape, the Italian Republic is in Southern Europe sharing borders with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia to the north.
Italy shipped US$546.9 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That dollar figure represents roughly 3.1% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion one year earlier.
Applying a continental perspective, roughly two-thirds (64.6%) of Italian exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 16% was sent to importers in Asia. Italy ships another 11% worth of products to North America.
Smaller percentages were sold to Africa (3.9%), Latin America (2.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (1%) led by Australia.
Italy’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Italy’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Italian shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Italian exports.
- Germany: US$68.7 billion (12.6% of total Italian exports)
- France: $57.2 billion (10.5%)
- United States: $50.1 billion (9.2%)
- Spain: $28.4 billion (5.2%)
- United Kingdom: $27.7 billion (5.1%)
- Switzerland: $26.4 billion (4.8%)
- Poland: $15.9 billion (2.9%)
- Belgium: $15.6 billion (2.8%)
- China: $15.5 billion (2.8%)
- Netherlands: $13.7 billion (2.5%)
- Austria: $12 billion (2.2%)
- Turkey: $10.4 billion (1.9%)
- Russia: $9 billion (1.6%)
- Romania: $8.9 billion (1.6%)
- Japan: $7.6 billion (1.4%)
About two-thirds (67.1%) of Italian exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among these top import purchasers, the Netherlands showed the greatest year-over-year growth in demand for Italian products in 2018 posting a 16.9% gain from 2017.
The value of Switzerland’s imports from Italy improved by 13.5% over the same period, trailed by Austria’s 12.9% appreciation, Poland’s 12.1% uptick and France’s 10.4% increase.
The two decliners year over year were Turkey (down -7.7%) and Russia (down -0.3%).
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.
Italy incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- China: -US$20.8 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Germany: -$14.4 billion
- Netherlands: -$13.3 billion
- Russia: -$7.4 billion
- Belgium: -$7.1 billion
- Azerbaijan: -$6.2 billion
- Iraq: -$3.9 billion
- Libya: -$3.5 billion
- Algeria: -$3.1 billion
- Ireland: -$2.5 billion
Among Italy’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Italian deficits with Libya (up 84.4%), Ireland (up 54.2%) and Iraq (up 54%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Italy’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Italy posted an overall trade surplus in 2018 amounting to $45.8 billion, down by -11.2% from the $51.6 billion in black ink one year earlier.
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.
Italy incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- United States: US$31.2 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- United Kingdom: $14.5 billion
- France: $14 billion
- Switzerland: $13.5 billion
- Hong Kong: $6.7 billion
- Poland: $4.3 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $4.1 billion
- Australia: $4.03 billion
- Spain: $4.01 billion
- Mexico: $3.97 billion
Among Italy’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Italian surpluses with Spain (up 82.2%), Poland (up 43.9%) and Switzerland (up 26.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Italy’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Italian Import Partners
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)
Based on Wikipedia’s list of Italian companies, the following are also examples of established firms that ship products from Italy to its import partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis is the product category that the Italian business specializes in.
- Alfa Romeo Automobiles SpA (luxury vehicles)
- Campagnolo (bicycle components)
- Eko (guitars)
- Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta (firearms)
- Ferrari SpA (sports cars)
- Ferrero SpA (chocolate confectionery)
- Forst (brewery)
- Luigi Lavazza SpA (whole bean coffee)
- Olivetti SpA (consumer electronics)
See also Italy’s Top 10 Imports, Top EU Export Countries, Italy’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Italy’s Top 10 Exports
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 21, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 21, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 21, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 21, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Italy. Accessed on March 21, 2019