A Central European nation surrounded by Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia, the Republic of Poland shipped US$260.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects an 18.4% increase since 2014 and an 11.3% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, 88.8% of Polish exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries. Smaller percentages were shipped to Asia (5.3%), North America (3.6%), Africa (1.1%), Latin America (0.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.3%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Poland’s population of 38.4 million people, its total $260.7 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $6,800 for every resident in the Central European country.
In macroeconomic terms, Poland’s total exported goods represent 21.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($1.213 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 21.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 27% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Poland’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Poland also provided $69.2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 5.7% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Poland’s unemployment rate was 5.4% at May 2019 down from 6.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Poland’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Polish global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Poland.
- Machinery including computers: US$35.1 billion (13.5% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $29.8 billion (11.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $28 billion (10.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $14.8 billion (5.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $13 billion (5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $8.7 billion (3.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $6.9 billion (2.6%)
- Meat: $6 billion (2.3%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $5.8 billion (2.2%)
- Wood: $5.5 billion (2.1%)
Poland’s top 10 exports accounted for almost three-fifths (58.9%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Wood represents the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 29.8% in value from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales was the articles made from iron or steel category thanks to its 27.1% gain.
Plastics and items made from plastic and shipped from Poland posted the third-fastest increase, up 26.4%. Revenues from exported Polish mineral fuels-related goods improved by 22.1% year over year, propelled by higher international sales of refined petroleum oils and coal coke or semi-coke.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Poland’s most valuable export products are automotive parts or accessories (5.5% of total) followed by exported cars (2.8%). Other higher value exported goods from Poland are seats and chairs (2.5%), computers including optical readers (2.1%), TV receivers, monitors or projectors (2%), miscellaneous furniture (also 2%), cigarettes or cigars (1.3%), insulated wire or cable (1.2%) then turbo-jets (1.1%).
The following types of Polish 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.
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: US$10.9 billion (Up by 13.3% since 2017)
- Meat: $4 billion (Up by 19.1%)
- Vehicles: $3.6 billion (Down by -25.2%)
- Wood: $3.4 billion (Up by 27.1%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $3.1 billion (Up by 22.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $2.2 billion (Up by 43.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $2.2 billion (Down by -14.4%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $1.8 billion (Up by 11.5%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $1.7 billion (Up by 29.3%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $1.7 billion (Up by 6.8%)
Poland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of chairs, mattresses, prefabricated buildings and lighting-related goods. In turn, these cashflows indicate Poland’s strong competitive advantages under the related product category.
Overall Poland posted a -$5.9 billion trade deficit in 2018, reversing the $3.3 billion in black ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Poland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Poland’s goods trail Polish importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US-$16.6 billion (Up by 57.8% since 2017)
- Iron, steel: -$5.3 billion (Up by 35.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$3.7 billion (Up by 88%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$2.7 billion (Up by 5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.7 billion (Up by 47.8%)
- Organic chemicals: -$2.3 billion (Down by -16.8%)
- Aluminum: -$1.3 billion (Up by 22.3%)
- Other chemical goods: -$1.2 billion (Up by 11.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1 billion (Up by 37.9%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$914.6 million (Up by 17.9%)
Poland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products especially crude oil.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Poland’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Poland to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations particularly alternative energy sources.
Polish Export Companies
Seven corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Polish companies that Forbes included.
- KGHM Polska Miedz (diversified metals, mining)
- Pgnig Group (oil, gas)
- PKN Orlen (oil, gas)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol mentions the following companies as examples of Polish export companies:
- Cimir Poland (seats, furniture parts)
- Nexter Automotive Poland S P Zoo (steering mechanisms, synchronous belts, goods transportation vehicles)
- Radiatym Bogdar Tymkiewicz (iron and stainless steel fittings, frozen fish fillets, palmitic/stearic acid)
- Tristone Flowtech Poland (tubes/pipes/hoses, latex, rubber transmission belts)
Poland’s capital city is Warsaw.
See also Poland’s Top Trading Partners, Poland’s Top 10 Imports and Top EU Export Countries
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 22, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 28, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 22, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Poland. Accessed on March 22, 2019
Wikipedia, Poland. Accessed on March 22, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 28, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 31, 2016