Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Chilean peso depreciated by -17.1% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -12.8% from 2019 to 2020. Chile’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 80.5% of products exported from Chile were bought by importers in: China (31.3% of the global total), United States (14.1%), Japan (9.2%), South Korea (6.6%), Brazil (4.6%), Peru (2.8%), Spain (2.4%), Netherlands (2.2%), Taiwan (also 2.2%), Mexico (1.9%), India (1.6%) and Switzerland (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, 57.7% of Chile’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 16.8% were sold to importers in North America. Chile shipped another 12.2% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (11.5%), Africa (0.5%) and Oceania led by Australia (0.46%).
Given Chile’s population of 19.5 million people, the total $67.6 billion in 2020 Chilean exports translates to roughly $3,500 for every person in the Latin American nation.
Chile’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Chilean global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Chile.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$20.4 billion (30.1% of total exports)
- Copper: $15.7 billion (23.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $5.8 billion (8.6%)
- Fish: $4.9 billion (7.3%)
- Wood: $2.2 billion (3.3%)
- Woodpulp: $2.1 billion (3.1%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $2 billion (3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.8 billion (2.7%)
- Meat: $1.4 billion (2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.3 billion (1.9%)
Chile’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Meat was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 20.1% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was copper via a 5.1% gain. Chile’s shipments of ores, slag and ash posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 1.7% propelled by greater international sales of iron ore and concentrates.
The leading decliner among Chile’s top 10 export categories was gems and precious metals thanks to a -8.9% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Chile’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
Overall Chile earned a $12.2 billion trade surplus in 2020, up 143.5% from the $5 billion in black ink for 2019.
As of June 2020, Chile’s trade surplus stood at $6 billion. That’s a 131.2% improvement compared to the first 6 months of 2019.
The following types of Chilean 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 equal 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.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$19.9 billion (Up by 1.3% since 2019)
- Copper: $15.6 billion (Up by 5.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $5.5 billion (Down by -0.2%)
- Fish: $4.9 billion (Down by -14.8%)
- Woodpulp: $2.1 billion (Down by -23.8%)
- Wood: $2 billion (Down by -3.1%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $1.4 billion (Down by -3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $1.3 billion (Up by 14.6%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (Down by -7.8%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $329.6 million (Down by -7.3%)
Chile has highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper, molybdenum, iron and zinc ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Chile’s strong competitive advantages for these essential construction materials under the ores, slag and ash category.
Below are exports from Chile that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Chile’s goods trail Chilean importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$7.2 billion (Down by -8.5% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$6.9 billion (Up by 21.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$6.9 billion (Down by -34.7%)
- Vehicles: -$4.1 billion (Down by -41.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.8 billion (Down by -4.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.6 billion (Up by 7.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.2 billion (Down by -10.0%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$990.4 million (Down by -13.6%)
- Cereals: -$911.4 million (Up by 16.5%)
- Other chemical goods: -$853.3 million (Up by 10.9%)
Chile has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery-related products, particularly computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Chile’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Chile to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Chilean Export Companies
According to Forbes Global 2000 rankings, the following 8 companies are examples of major Chilean export companies.
- AntarChile (investment services)
- BCI-Banco Credito (regional bank)
- Cencosud (food retail)
- CorpBanca (regional bank)
- Falabella (department stores)
- Latam Airlines (airline)
- Quinenco (investment conglomerate)
- SQM Materials (diversified chemicals)
Searchable List of Chile’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Chile during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Chile's Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Copper ores, concentrates||$17,475,792,000||-2.7%|
|2||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$13,507,139,000||+1.7%|
|3||Fish fillets, pieces||$2,545,803,000||-7.4%|
|4||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$2,035,250,000||-25.1%|
|7||Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums||$1,534,535,000||+11.2%|
|8||Whole fish (frozen)||$1,530,570,000||-15.2%|
|9||Iron ores, concentrates||$1,423,166,000||+119.1%|
|10||Molybdenum ores, concentrates||$1,247,945,000||-6.6%|
|11||Grapes (fresh or dried)||$1,049,301,000||-5%|
|15||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$724,590,000||-4.1%|
|17||Apples, pears (fresh)||$678,798,000||-6.7%|
|20||Whole fish (fresh)||$550,008,000||-38.5%|
|21||Inedible meat flour||$455,806,000||+51.6%|
|22||Frozen fruits, nuts||$434,760,000||+13.1%|
|23||Fresh or dried citrus fruit||$370,360,000||+16.3%|
|25||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$354,601,000||+0.3%|
|27||Fiberboard of ligneous materials including wood||$341,082,000||-14.3%|
|28||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$320,057,000||+10.2%|
|29||Ligneous fiberboard including wood||$311,279,000||-1.6%|
|34||Hydrazine, inorganic salts||$241,354,000||-23.9%|
|39||Processed petroleum oils||$192,586,000||-5.9%|
|40||Copper waste, scrap||$186,639,000||+137.5%|
|41||Other food preparations||$181,905,000||-11.1%|
|42||Metal-containing ash, residues||$178,868,000||+172.7%|
|43||Fruit and vegetable juices||$174,021,000||-8.6%|
|44||Fish/marine mammal fats and oils||$169,395,000||+36.8%|
|45||Salt, pure sodium chloride||$162,606,000||-19.4%|
|47||Medication mixes in dosage||$149,051,000||-7.6%|
|49||Jams, fruit jellies, fruit/nut pastes||$134,275,000||-4%|
|52||Salt, pure sodium chloride||$122,586,000||-21.7%|
|53||Vegetable saps, extracts||$120,876,000||+8.7%|
|54||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$118,623,000||+0.9%|
|56||Jams, fruit jellies, fruit/nut pastes||$111,136,000||-18.7%|
|57||Computers, optical readers||$110,526,000||+54%|
|58||Iron or steel scrap||$106,576,000||+1.9%|
|60||Red meat offal||$101,415,000||+38%|
|61||Alloy steel bars, rods||$98,817,000||-30.6%|
|69||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$82,387,000||+9.8%|
|70||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$76,592,000||-19.3%|
|71||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$75,912,000||+8.3%|
|72||Breathing appliances, gas masks||$75,232,000||+7,484%|
|74||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$71,949,000||-30.9%|
|77||Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)||$69,286,000||+8.1%|
|78||Phone system devices||$62,719,000||-38.1%|
|80||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$61,975,000||-9%|
|81||Miscellaneous fish for human consumption||$60,976,000||-22%|
|83||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$53,303,000||+0.3%|
|85||Onions, garlic, leeks||$52,153,000||+24.1%|
|86||Dried or salted fish||$51,874,000||-10.3%|
|87||Boron oxides, boric acids||$50,151,000||+20.6%|
|88||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$49,512,000||-11.6%|
|89||Glass bottles, jars, other containers||$47,991,000||+57%|
|91||Chemical woodpulp (dissolving)||$42,429,000||N/A|
|92||Uncoated kraft paper||$40,947,000||-15.1%|
|94||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$40,093,000||-36.4%|
|96||Pig, poultry fat||$38,417,000||+18.7%|
|97||Animal/vegetable hydrogenated fats, oils||$37,970,000||+8.7%|
|98||Aluminum waste, scrap||$36,090,000||-1.9%|
|99||Liquid pumps and elevators||$36,022,000||+1.9%|
|100||Sheep or goat meat||$36,017,000||+2.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$62.9 billion or 93.1% by value for all products exported from Chile during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, Chile’s total exported goods represent 14.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($456.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 14.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 13.8% for 2019. This seems to indicate a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Chile’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Chile’s unemployment rate was 10.2% at January 2021, up from an average 6.966% one year earlier according to the International Monetary Fund.
Chile’s capital city is Santiago.
See also Chile’s Top 10 Imports, Chile’s Top Trading Partners and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 2, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 2, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 2, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Chile. Accessed on March 2, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 2, 2021