Located on the Arabian Peninsula’s northeast coast, the State of Qatar borders with Saudi Arabia while sharing sea borders on the Persian Gulf with the United Arab Emirates and Iran. Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Qatar is the world’s richest country in terms of GDP per capita.
Qatar shipped an estimated US$82.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -37.1% decline since 2014 but a 29.5% upturn from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data from 2015 shows that 84.1% of products exported from Qatar were bought by importers in: Japan (20.8% of the global total), South Korea (17.3%), India (11.9%), China (6.7%), United Arab Emirates (6.1%), Singapore (4.5%), United Kingdom (also 4.5%), Taiwan (3.9%), Thailand (3.5%), Italy (2%), Belgium (1.7%) and Turkey (1.2%).
From a continental perspective, 82.4% of Qatari exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 10.4% were sold to European importers. Qatar shipped another 3.3% worth of goods to African customers with 1.3% going to North America. At 1.1%, a smaller percentage was bought by Latin American nations excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Qatar’s population of 2.4 million people, its total $82.7 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $35,000 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
In macroeconomic terms, Qatar’s total exported goods represent 23.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($354.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 23.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 27.3% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Qatar’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Qatar also provided $18.3 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 5.2% 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. Qatar’s unemployment rate was 0.1% at December 2018 down from 0.2% as of December 2016, according to Trading Economics.
Qatar’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Qatari global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Qatar.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$72.4 billion (87.5% of total exports)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.3 billion (2.8%)
- Aluminum: $1.4 billion (1.7%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.4 billion (1.7%)
- Fertilizers: $1.4 billion (1.7%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $751.4 million (0.9%)
- Iron, steel: $563.1 million (0.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $375.1 million (0.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $288.4 million (0.3%)
- Other chemical goods: $152.2 million (0.2%)
Qatar’s top 10 exports accounted for 98.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals represents the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 46.5% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel thanks to a 40.8% increase.
Qatar’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 33.6%.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Qatar export categories was miscellaneous chemical goods which fell -10.8% year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, petroleum gases were Qatar’s most valuable exported product at 48.5% of the country’s total. In second place was crude oil (25.4%) trailed by processed petroleum oils (13.6%), ethylene polymers (2.8%), nitrogenous fertilizers (1.7%), unwrought aluminum (1.7%), hydrogen and rare gases (0.6%) then iron or non-alloy steel bars and rods (0.5%).
Overall Qatar posted an estimated $53.8 billion trade surplus during 2018, up by 52.2% from $35.4 billion one year earlier.
The following types of Qatari 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$71.9 billion (Up by 34.1% since 2017)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.7 billion (Down by -9%)
- Fertilizers: $1.4 billion (Up by 10%)
- Aluminum: $1.3 billion (Up by 2.4%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.2 billion (Up by 24.9%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $572.9 million (Up by 68.7%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $232.9 million (Up by 978.8%)
- Iron, steel: $222.7 million (Up by 326%)
- Woodpulp: $4.7 million (Up by 67.4%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.3 million (Up by 50.4%)
Qatar has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related goods notably petroleum gases and both crude and refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Qatar’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Below are exports from Qatar that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Qatar’s goods trail Qatari importer spending on foreign products.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -US$4.8 billion (Up by 38.8% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$3.9 billion (Up by 1.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.8 billion (Up by 10.4%)
- Vehicles: -$2.1 billion (Down by -4%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$1.6 billion (Down by -9.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.1 billion (Up by 33.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$729.5 million (Up by 1.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$662.8 million (Up by 15.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$512.9 million (Up by 28%)
- Ships, boats: -$455.7 million (Down by -7.5%)
Qatar has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products under the aircraft and spacecraft category.
Qatari Export Companies
Eight Qatari corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 albeit many of these are in the financial services. Below are samples from the Forbes listing.
- Qatar National Bank (regional bank)
- Ooredoo Telecom (telecommunications services)
- Industries Qatar (specialized chemicals)
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Qatar. Selected examples are shown below:
- Qatar National Cement Company (cement manufacturing)
- Qatar Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Qatar Steel (steel, other basic materials)
- Qatargas (natural gas)
- RasGas (natural gas)
Qatar’s capital city is Doha.
See also World’s Richest Export Countries, Top Middle Eastern Export Countries and Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 17, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 7, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 17, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 17, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 7, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 7, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Qatar. Accessed on August 17, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 7, 2019
Wikipedia, Qatar. Accessed on August 17, 2018