A Southern European island nation in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy, Tunisia and Libya, the Republic of Malta shipped US$3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 2.8% increase since 2014 and a 20.2% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, $1.6 billion or 54.6% of Maltese exports by value were delivered to fellow European nations while about one quarter was sold to importers in Asia. Malta shipped another 7.9% worth of goods to African countries with 7% going to entities in North America.
Given Malta’s population of 449,043 people, its total $3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $6,700 for every resident in the small island country.
In macroeconomic terms, Malta’s total exported goods represent 14.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($21.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 14.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 20% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Malta’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Malta also provided $15.1 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 70.7% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Malta’s unemployment rate was 3.5% as of March 2019 down from 3.9% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Malta’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups garnered the highest dollar value in Maltese global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Malta.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$794.8 million (26.4% of total exports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $465.8 million (15.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $340.2 million (11.3%)
- Fish: $174.6 million (5.8%)
- Toys, games: $165.2 million (5.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $160.4 million (5.3%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $146.4 million (4.9%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $134.6 million (4.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $99.9 million (3.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $80.9 million (2.7%)
Malta’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing category from 2017 to 2018 thanks to its 106.5% increase. In second place was the books, newspaper and pictures category (up 94.7%) trailed by machinery including computers (up 31.5%).
The sole decliner were plastics and items made from plastic, down -2.5% year over year.
At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, Malta’s most valuable export product is electronic integrated circuits (19% of total), refined petroleum oils (12.9%), medication mixes in dosage (11.1%), transport containers (5.5%), lower-voltage switches or fuses (5%) then aircraft parts (3.9%).
The following types of Maltese 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.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$202 million (Down by -26.6% since 2017)
- Toys, games: $135.6 million (Up by 19.1%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $126.6 million (Up by 116%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $56.1 million (Down by -36.8%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $49.3 million (Up by 16.3%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $30.1 million (Up by 0.8%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: $29.8 million (Up by 3.3%)
- Fish: $11.5 million (Up by 156.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $9.4 million (Down by -44%)
- Woodpulp: $2.6 million (Down by -22.1%)
Malta has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electrical machinery and equipment. In turn, these cashflows indicate Malta’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals category.
Overall, Malta incurred a -$3.3 billion trade deficit during 2018 up by 0.1% from 2017.
Below are exports from Malta that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Malta’s goods trail Maltese importer spending on foreign products.
- Italy: -US$1.2 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- United Kingdom: -$507.4 million
- Spain: -$270.3 million
- Greece: -$257.9 million
- China: -$206 million
- Netherlands: -$183.7 million
- Belgium: -$175.8 million
- India: -$153.7 million
- Portugal: -$105.6 million
- Cayman Islands: -$101.8 million
Malta has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined petroleum oils and, to a lesser extent, for petroleum gases and electricity.
Maltese Export Companies
Given how small Malta is, it should come as no surprise that not one Maltese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list Maltese companies that engage in international trade. Selected examples are shown below:
- Air Malta plc (airliner)
- Emmanuel Delicata (wine)
- Simonds Farsons Cisk plc (beverages including beer)
Malta’s capital city is Valletta, the smallest national capital in the European Union.
See also Malta’s Top Trading Partners and Top EU Export Countries
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 26, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 4, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 26, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malta. Accessed on March 26, 2019
Wikipedia, Malta. Accessed on March 26, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 4, 2019