A sovereign state in Western Asia bordered by Syria and Israel, the Lebanese Republic shipped US$3.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -12.7% decrease since 2014 and a -0.4% downtick from 2017 to 2018.
The latest trade partner data shows that 64% of products exported from Lebanon were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (15.5% of the global total), Saudi Arabia (6.6%), Syria (6.4%), Turkey (6%), South Africa (5.3%), Qatar (4.7%), Iraq (also 4.7%), Switzerland (4.1%), China (3.5%), Jordan (2.7%), Kuwait (2.4%) then the United States (2.2%).
From a continental perspective, about 58% of Lebanese exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 18.4% were sold to African importers. Lebanon shipped another 17.4% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (3%), Latin America (1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.6%) led by Australia.
Given Lebanon’s population of 6.1 million people, its total $3.3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $550 for every resident in the Middle Eastern nation.
In macroeconomic terms, Lebanon’s total exported goods represent 3.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($89.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 4.7% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Lebanon’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Lebanon also provided $15.4 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 17.2% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trading Economics projects Lebanon’s unemployment rate to be 6.6% at September 2019.
Lebanon’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Lebanese global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Lebanon.
- Gems, precious metals: US$660.8 million (20.2% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $226.4 million (6.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $179.1 million (5.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $178.7 million (5.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $167.7 million (5.1%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $127.5 million (3.9%)
- Iron, steel: $123.3 million (3.8%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $104.8 million (3.2%)
- Copper: $93.8 million (2.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $78.2 million (2.4%)
Lebanon’s top 10 exports accounted for 59.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Plastics including articles made from plastic was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 33.7% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel which appreciated 33%.
Lebanese shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest gain in value via a 31.4% increase, ahead of Lebanon’s exported copper (up 23%).
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold and diamonds (both 8.8% of total) represent Lebanon’s most valuable export products for 2018. In third place were shipments of cars (6.2%) trailed by iron or steel scrap (3.6%), electric generating sets or converters (2.7%), copper waste or scrap (also 2.7%) then jewelry (2%) and phosphatic fertilizers (also 2%).
Eight categories of Lebanese exported products generated 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.
- Lead: US$31.1 million (Up by 10.5% since 2017)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $22.3 million (Up by 0.9%)
- Fertilizers: $19.6 million (Up by 119.7%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $14.5 million (Down by -46.2%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $4.9 million (Reversing a -$11.3 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $2.7 million (Reversing a -$1.6 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $2.5 million (Up by 14.9%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $984,000 (Down by -258.7%)
Lebanon has highly positive net exports in the international trade of lead and miscellaneous items made from lead. In turn, these cashflows indicate Lebanon’s strong competitive advantages under the lead product category.
Overall Lebanon incurred a -$16.7 billion product trade deficit for 2018. That deficit reflects a 19.2% expansion in red ink from one year earlier.
Below are exports from Lebanon that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Lebanon’s goods trail Lebanese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$4 billion (Up by 24.2% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$1.4 billion (Up by 32%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.3 billion (Up by 13.6%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.1 billion (Up by 15.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$911 million (Up by 67.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$591.5 million (Up by 82.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$544.2 million (Up by 10.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$459.5 million (Up by 1.4%)
- Live animals: -$408.8 million (Up by 41.1%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$353.4 million (Up by 26%)
Lebanon has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, notably for refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases and petroleum coke.
Lebanese Export Companies
Two regional banks headquartered in Lebanon rank among Forbes Global 2000, namely Bank Audi and Blom Bank.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Lebanon. Selected examples are shown below:
- Bonjus (juice)
- Château Musar (winery)
- IXSIR wine (winery)
- Massaya (winery, distillery)
- Middle East Airlines (airliner)
- Tabbah (jewelry)
Lebanon’s capital city is Beirut, nicknamed “Paris of the East”.
See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports and Bahrain’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on Middle East: Lebanon. Accessed on October 24, 2019
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Lebanon. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Forbes 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on October 24, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on October 24, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Lebanon. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Lebanon. Accessed on October 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on October 24, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Beirut, Lebanon. Accessed on October 24, 2019