Located at the tip of the Persian Gulf in Western Asia, the State of Kuwait shipped an estimated US$66.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -34.3% decrease since 2014 but a 21.2% improvement from 2017 to 2018.
Given Kuwait’s population of 2.9 million people, its total $66.4 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $22,800 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
In macroeconomic terms, Kuwait’s total exported goods represent 21.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($306.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 21.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 23.5% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Kuwait’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Kuwait also provided $8.2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2.7% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Kuwait’s unemployment rate was 2.06% in 2018 down from 2.08% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kuwaiti global shipments during 2018 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$61.6 billion (92.7% of total exports)
- Organic chemicals: $2.7 billion (4.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $872.7 million (1.3%)
- Fertilizers: $220.1 million (0.3%)
- Iron, steel: $149.7 million (0.2%)
- Other chemical goods: $92.7 million (0.1%)
- Copper: $86 million (0.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $85.6 million (0.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $63.2 million (0.1%)
- Aluminum: $61.2 million (0.1%)
Highly concentrated in mineral fuels-related products, Kuwait’s top 10 exports are 99.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Salt, sulphur, stone and cement was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 1,797% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals thanks to a 121.1% increase.
Kuwait’s shipments of copper posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 120.1% year over year.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Kuwait export categories was gems and precious metals via a -39.6% drop weighed down by slowing international sales of gold and jewelry.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Kuwait’s most valuable exported product at 77.6% of the country’s total. In second place were processed petroleum oils (10.6%) trailed by petroleum gases (4.4%), cyclic hydrocarbons (2.2%), acyclic alcohols (1.7%), ethylene polymers (1.1%) and nitrogenous fertilizers (0.3%).
Overall Kuwait achieved a $44.4 billion trade surplus for 2018, up 109.3% from $21.2 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$61.4 billion (Up by 24.1% since 2017)
- Organic chemicals: $2.6 billion (Up by 159.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $423 million (Reversing a -$140.6 million deficit)
- Fertilizers: $212 million (Down by -7.7%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $49.1 million (Reversing a -$388.6 million deficit)
- Ores, slag, ash: $8.6 million (Reversing a -$43.5 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $6.8 million (Up by 110%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $551,000 (Reversing a -$21,000 deficit)
- Lead: $510,000 (Reversing a -$639,000 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.
- Vehicles: US-$3.6 billion (Up by 22% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$3.1 billion (Down by -34.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.1 billion (Down by -50%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.3 billion (Down by -28.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$848 million (Down by -9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$652.9 million (Down by -50.7%)
- Copper: -$559.9 million (Up by 338.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$539.1 million (Down by -17.7%)
- Cereals: -$503.2 million (Down by -10.5%)
- Meat: -$454.1 million (Down by -14.5%)
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)
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
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 July 9, 2019
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 July 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Kuwait. Accessed on August 21, 2018
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kuwait. Accessed on August 21, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 9, 2019