Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports

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Located at the tip of the Persian Gulf in Western Asia, the State of Kuwait shipped US$54.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017.

Against the backcloth of declining oil prices, that dollar total reflects a -52% decline since 2013 but an 18.5% increase from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Kuwait’s exported goods plus services represent 50.2% of total Kuwaiti economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Kuwait’s population of 2.9 million people, its total $54.8 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $19,100 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.

Kuwait’s unemployment rate was 2.08% in 2017 according to Trading Economics.

Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kuwaiti global shipments during 2017 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kuwait.

Drilling down to 4-digit HTS codes, Kuwait’s most valuable exported good is crude oil ($38.2 billion) trailed by refined petroleum oils ($9.2 billion), petroleum gases ($2.3 billion), acyclic alcohols ($754.6 million) then motor cars ($615.3 million).

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$49.6 billion (90.5% of total exports)
  2. Organic chemicals: $1.2 billion (2.2%)
  3. Vehicles: $854.1 million (1.6%)
  4. Plastics, plastic articles: $661.3 million (1.2%)
  5. Fertilizers: $239.9 million (0.4%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $237.4 million (0.4%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $142.8 million (0.3%)
  8. Other chemical goods: $105.4 million (0.2%)
  9. Gems, precious metals: $104.6 million (0.2%)
  10. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $89.9 million (0.2%)

Highly concentrated in mineral fuels-related products, Kuwait’s top 10 exports are 97.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Miscellaneous chemical goods represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 48.7% from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was the furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefab buildings category which gained 33.6%.

Exported Kuwaiti electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value via a 21% upswing.

Two top categories declined year over year. Gems and precious metals fell -19.4% thanks to slower international sales of jewelry and gold. Kuwaiti exports of plastics and plastic articles retreated -3.5%.


Overall Kuwait achieved a $21.2 billion trade surplus for 2017, up 37.6% from $15.4 billion during 2016.

The following types of Kuwaiti 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.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$49.4 billion (Up by 19.7% since 2016)
  2. Organic chemicals: $1 billion (Up by 5.7%)
  3. Fertilizers: $229.7 million (Up by 10.7%)
  4. Milling products, malt, starches: $19.9 million (Down by -28%)
  5. Woodpulp: $3.2 million (Down by -61.1%)
  6. Umbrellas, walking-sticks: $1.2 million (Reversing a -$1.4 million deficit)

Kuwait has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils (both crude and refined) and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Kuwait’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels-related product category.


Below are exports from Kuwait that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Kuwait’s goods trail Kuwaiti importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$4.7 billion (Up by 10% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.1 billion (Up by 21.2%)
  3. Vehicles: -$3 billion (Down by -7.6%)
  4. Articles of iron or steel: -$1.9 billion (Down by -1.7%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.3 billion (Up by 18.8%)
  6. Gems, precious metals: -$1.1 billion (Up by 14%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$932 million (Up by 19.7%)
  8. Iron, steel: -$859.2 million (Up by 30.2%)
  9. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$654.7 million (Up by 6.1%)
  10. Cereals: -$562.3 million (Up by 16.3%)

Kuwait has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery notably appliances for piping, plant or laboratory equipment and computers.


Kuwaiti Export Companies

Four Kuwaiti corporations rank among the Forbes Global 2000.

  • National Bank of Kuwait (financials)
  • Kuwait Finance House (financials)
  • Zain (telecommunications)
  • Kuwait Projects (financials)

Wikipedia also lists exporters from Kuwait. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Afco Aluminium Factory (aluminum)
  • Gulfsat (telecommunications)
  • Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (petroleum)
  • Kuwait National Petroleum Company (petrochemicals)
  • Kuwait Oxygen And Acetylene Company (chemicals)
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (petroleum)
  • Qualitynet (telecommunications)
  • United Fisheries of Kuwait (food)

Kuwait’s capital city is Kuwait City.

See also Crude Oil Exports by Country, Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports and Top Middle Eastern Export Countries

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 21, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 21, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 21, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 21, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 21, 2018

Wikipedia, Kuwait. Accessed on August 21, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kuwait. Accessed on August 21, 2018