UAE’s Top 10 Exports

United Arab Emirates flag (courtesy of

UAE flag (

A federation of 7 Western Asian emirates covering the south end of the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates shipped US$308.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 3.3% uptick from 2016 to 2017 but a -18.7% decline since 2013.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the UAE’s exported goods represent 44.3% of the Middle Eastern country’s total economic output or Gross Domestic Product (after Purchasing Power Parity adjustment to US currency).

From a continental perspective, 70% of UAE exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 13.8% were sold to European importers. The UAE shipped another 10.5% worth of goods to customers in Africa. Smaller percentages arrived in North America (4.9%), Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia and Latin America (0.4%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given the UAE’s population of 9.7 million people, its total $308.5 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $32,000 for every resident in the sovereign absolute monarchy.

UAE’s unemployment rate was 1.72% in 2017 per Trading Economics.

UAE’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in UAE global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the UAE.

From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil and refined petroleum oils represent the UAE’s most valuable exported products trailed by gold, mobile phones, jewelry, diamonds and cars.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$69.2 billion (22.4% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $46.5 billion (15.1%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $23.6 billion (7.7%)
  4. Machinery including computers: $16.1 billion (5.2%)
  5. Vehicles: $12.3 billion (4%)
  6. Aluminum: $6.2 billion (2%)
  7. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $5.1 billion (1.7%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $5.1 billion (1.7%)
  9. Aircraft, spacecraft: $3.2 billion (1%)
  10. Perfumes, cosmetics: $2.3 billion (0.8%)

The UAE’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-fifths (61.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Tobacco and its manufactured substitutes represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 394.4% since 2016.

In second place for improving export sales was electrical machinery and equipment which rose 255.6% led by computer exports.

The UAE’s exported perfumes and cosmetics posted the third-fastest gain in value via its 101.4% year-over-year gain.

The sole decliner among the top 10 UAE export categories was the plastics and plastic articles category which decreased by -5.9%.


Overall, the UAE achieved a $38.8 billion product trade surplus for 2017 up from $27.8 billion in black ink garnered in 2016.

The following types of UAE 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.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$59.8 billion (Up by 40.6% since 2016)
  2. Aluminum: $5.1 billion (Up by 25.6%)
  3. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $2.8 billion (Up by 962%)
  4. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $547.7 million (Down by -8%)
  5. Books, newspapers, pictures: $539.6 million (Down by -46.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $365.7 million (Down by -80.7%)
  7. Manmade filaments: $277.8 million (Down by -17.3%)
  8. Ships, boats: $27.5 million (Down by -105.5%)
  9. Railways, streetcars: $17.8 million (Up by 494%)
  10. Fertilizers: $12 million (Down by -166.1%)

The UAE has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils and gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate UAE’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.


Below are exports from the UAE that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country UAE’s goods trail UAE importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US-$22.6 billion (Up by 86.5% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$15 billion (Up by 18.5%)
  3. Vehicles: -$9.7 billion (Up by 14.8%)
  4. Gems, precious metals: -$8.2 billion (Down by -22.4%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$5.3 billion (Down by -49.5%)
  6. Iron, steel: -$3.2 billion (Up by 86.4%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$3.1 billion (Up by 41.4%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$2.5 billion (Up by 6.4%)
  9. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$1.8 billion (Up by 23.6%)
  10. Inorganic chemicals: -$1.7 billion (Down by -5.3%)

UAE has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the electrical machinery and equipment category.


Major Companies Headquartered in the UAE

Ten UAE business entities rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2017. The world-class UAE companies are listed in descending order starting with those with the highest dollar value in annual revenues.

  • First Abu Dhabi Bank (banking services)
  • Etisalat (telecom services, equipment)
  • Emirates NBD (regional bank)
  • Emaar Properties (real estate)
  • DP World (marine terminal operations)
  • Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (regional bank)
  • Dubai Islamic Bank (regional bank)
  • Mashreq Bank (regional bank)
  • Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (regional bank)
  • Union National Bank (regional bank)

Wikipedia lists exports-related companies located in the UAE. Selected examples from the energy sector are shown below, this time listed in alphabetical order.

  • ADNOC Gas Processing (state-owned natural gas)
  • Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (state-owned holding company)
  • Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (state-owned petroleum)
  • Dana Gas (privately-owned natural gas)

The UAE’s capital city is Abu Dhabi.

See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Crude Oil Exports by Country and Petroleum Gas Exports by Country

Research Sources:, Flag of UAE. Accessed on December 8, 2018

Forbes Global 2000 rankings, United Arab Emirates’ Biggest Companies. Accessed on December 8, 2018

Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on December 8, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on December 8, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on December 8, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on December 8, 2018

The World Factbook, Middle East: United Arab Emirates. Accessed on December 8, 2018

Wikipedia, United Arab Emirates. Accessed on December 8, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of UAE. Accessed on December 8, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Abu Dhabi, UAE. Accessed on December 8, 2018