Located at the tip of the Persian Gulf in Western Asia, the State of Kuwait shipped an estimated US$54.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -24.1% decrease since 2015 and a -1% dip from 2018 to 2019.
Given Kuwait’s population of 4.7 million people, its total $54.6 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $11,600 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kuwaiti global shipments during 2019 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$48.7 billion (89.1% of total exports)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $2.4 billion (4.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.7 billion (3.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $674.9 million (1.2%)
- Iron, steel: $94.5 million (0.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $78.7 million (0.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $67.9 million (0.1%)
- Aluminum: $65.9 million (0.1%)
- Copper: $57.3 million (0.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $50.4 million (0.1%)
Highly concentrated in mineral fuels-related products, Kuwait’s top 10 exports are 98.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Aircraft and spacecraft represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 352,008% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement via a 145.6% gain. Kuwait’s shipments of aluminum posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 42.2%.
The leading decliner among Kuwait’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers thanks, to a -76.3% deterioration year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Kuwait’s most valuable export product at 76.8% of the country’s total. In second place were processed petroleum oils (8%) trailed by aircraft and spacecraft (4.3%), petroleum gases (4.1%), cyclic hydrocarbons (2%), acyclic alcohols (1%) and ethylene polymers (also 1%).
Overall Kuwait achieved a $31.8 billion trade surplus for 2019, down -11.7% from $36.1 billion one year earlier.
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$48.5 billion (Down by -25.6% since 2018)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $1.7 billion (Reversing a -$24.3 million deficit)
- Organic chemicals: $1.6 billion (Down by -14.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $63.7 million (Reversing a -$45.6 million deficit)
- Fertilizers: $34.9 million (Down by -71.8%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $30.5 million (Down by -5%)
- Woodpulp: $10.7 million (Up by 157.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $4.8 million (Reversing a -$27.3 million deficit)
- Lead: $1.9 million (Reversing a -$3.1 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $499,000 (Down by -21.2%)
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.
- Vehicles: -US$3.9 billion (Up by 17.8% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$2.6 billion (Down by -41.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.8 billion (Down by -55.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.3 billion (Down by -38.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$710.6 million (Down by -29.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$693.5 million (Down by -46.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$523.1 million (Down by -19.7%)
- Copper: -$522.1 million (Up by 224.9%)
- Cereals: -$485.7 million (Down by -18.4%)
- Iron, steel: -$476.3 million (Down by -48.8%)
Kuwait has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably caused by purchases of imported vehicles.
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)
In macroeconomic terms, Kuwait’s total exported goods represent 17.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($312.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 17.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 21.7% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Kuwait’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Kuwait’s average unemployment rate was 1.322% in 2019 same as one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
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
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 17, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 17, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Wikipedia, Kuwait. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kuwait. Accessed on June 17, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 17, 2020