In addition to its southern coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, Pakistan shares land borders with China in the northeast, India to the east, Iran to the southwest and Afghanistan to the west.
Pakistan shipped US$23.6 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents just 0.1% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion for 2017.
From a continental perspective, 38% of Pakistan’s exports were delivered to importers in Asia while 35.2% arrived in Europe. Another 17.7% was delivered to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (6.3%), Latin America (1.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (1.3%) led by Australia.
Pakistan’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Pakistan’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Pakistani shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Pakistani exports.
- United States: US$3.8 billion (16% of total Pakistani exports)
- China: $1.8 billion (7.7%)
- United Kingdom: $1.7 billion (7.3%)
- Afghanistan: $1.4 billion (5.7%)
- Germany: $1.3 billion (5.5%)
- United Arab Emirates: $996 million (4.2%)
- Netherlands: $941.6 million (4%)
- Spain: $922.8 million (3.9%)
- Bangladesh: $787.6 million (3.3%)
- Italy: $776.5 million (3.3%)
- Belgium: $668 million (2.8%)
- France: $447.1 million (1.9%)
- India: $382.2 million (1.6%)
- Sri Lanka: $357.3 million (1.5%)
- Saudi Arabia: $316.9 million (1.3%)
Over two-thirds (70.1%) of Pakistani exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among the top trading partners, Sri Lanka increased its import purchases from Pakistan at the fastest rate with via 32.9% gain from 2017 to 2018. In second place was the Netherlands (up 24.2%) followed by Bangladesh (up 21.8%), China (up 20.6%) then the United Arab Emirates (up 14.6%).
There were three decliners year over year namely Saudi Arabia (down -5.3%), Belgium (down -4.7%) then Afghanistan (down -2.5%).
Pakistan incurred an overall -$36.6 billion trade deficit during 2018, up by 3% from -$35.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Pakistan incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- China: -US$12.8 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- United Arab Emirates: -$7.6 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$2.9 billion
- Qatar: -$2.3 billion
- Indonesia: -$2.2 billion
- Japan: -$2.1 billion
- India: -$1.6 billion
- Kuwait: -$1.3 billion
- Thailand: -$1.2 billion
- South Africa: -$1.1 billion
Among Pakistan’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Pakistani deficits with Qatar (up 47.3%), South Africa (up 22.1%) and Saudi Arabia (up 22%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Pakistan’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Pakistan to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Pakistan incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- United Kingdom: US$866.6 million (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Afghanistan: $858.3 million
- United States: $844.3 million
- Bangladesh: $714.8 million
- Spain: $713.5 million
- Netherlands: $383.4 million
- Belgium: $357.1 million
- Sri Lanka: $252 million
- Portugal: $168.2 million
- Italy: $149.6 million
Among Pakistan’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Pakistani surpluses with Italy (up 54.8%), Sri Lanka (up 52.2%) and Bangladesh (up 24.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018. In addition, Pakistan went from a -$187.1 million deficit trading with the Netherlands in 2017 to post $383.4 million in black ink one year later.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Pakistan’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Pakistan to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Pakistani Trading Partners
Two Pakistani corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. They are:
Based on Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, the following are examples of world-class Pakistani companies:
- Oil & Gas Development (petroleum operations)
- Pakistan State Oil (petroleum operations)
Wikipedia also lists businesses headquartered in Pakistan that export their products. Selected examples are shown below:
- Dalda (vegetable oil)
- Engro Corporation (fertilizers, petrochemicals)
- Ghani Automobile Industries (motorcycles)
- Ittefaq Group (steel)
- Ittehad Chemicals Limited (chemicals)
- Khaadi (hand-woven clothing)
- Madina Sugar Mills (PVT) Limited (sugar)
- Master Motors (truck manufacturer)
- Murree Brewery (beverages)
- Servis Tyres (tire maker)
See also Pakistan’s Top 10 Exports, Pakistan’s Top 10 Imports and Capital Facts for Islamabad, Pakistan
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 27, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 27, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 27, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 29, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Pakistan. Accessed on March 27, 2019
Wikipedia, Pakistan. Accessed on March 27, 2019