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 imports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively more expensive when converted starting from Chilean pesos.
From a continental perspective, 36.8% of Chile’s total imports by value in 2020 were purchased from Asian countries. North American trade partners supplied 22.2% of import purchases by Chile while 21.8% worth of goods originated from Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. At 16.9%, a smaller percentage came from European exporters.
Smaller percentages came from Oceania (0.7%) led by Australia and New Zealand as well as Africa (0.5%).
Given Chile’s population of 19.5 million people, its total $55.3 billion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $2,850 in yearly product demand from every person in the South American country.
Chile’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Chile’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Chile.
- Machinery including computers: US$7.8 billion (14% of total imports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $7.2 billion (13%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $7.1 billion (12.9%)
- Vehicles: $4.3 billion (7.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.1 billion (3.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.7 billion (3.1%)
- Meat: $1.5 billion (2.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.3 billion (2.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $1.2 billion (2.1%)
- Iron, steel: $1 billion (1.9%)
Chile’s top 10 imports accounted for approaching two-thirds (63.6%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported electrical machinery and equipment posted the strongest growth in value among the top 10 import categories, up 19.6% from 2019 to 2020. The only other increase was a 5.6% gain for pharmaceuticals.
Leading the decliners year over year were Chile’s international purchases of vehicles (down -40.8%), mineral fuels including oil (down -33.5%) and iron or steel as materials (down -29.5%).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under the adjacent virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
In 2020, Chilean importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$1.2 billion (up 24.3% from 2019)
- Machinery parts: $482.9 million (down -3.9%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $397.9 million (down -37.6%)
- Pulp-making machinery: $376 million (up 177.5%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $326.4 million (down -12.3%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $317.8 million (down -8.9%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $316.6 million (down -11%)
- Transmission shafts, gears, clutches: $284.4 million (down -4.1%)
- Sort/screen/washing machinery: $253.1 million (down -19.6%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $246.9 million (down -12.9%)
Among these import subcategories, Chilean purchases of pulp-making machinery (up 177.5%) and computers including optical readers (up 24.3%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of machinery-related imports among Chilean businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Chilean importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related products.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$2.7 billion (down -31.5% from 2019)
- Crude oil: $2.2 billion (down -45.8%)
- Petroleum gases: $1.5 billion (down -16.4%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $680.1 million (down -21%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $20.9 million (up 1748.1%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $19 million (down -64.3%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $13.5 million (down -7.9%)
- Peat: $9.8 million (up 20.8%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $5 million (up 9.5%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $2 million (down -39.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Chilean purchases of petroleum oil residues (up 1,748%), peat (up 20.8%) and high temperature distilled coal tar oils (up 9.5%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of mineral fuels-related imports among Chilean businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Chilean importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electrical goods including consumer electronics.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$2 billion (up 3% from 2019)
- Electric motors, generators: $1.1 billion (up 151.3%)
- Electric generating sets, converters: $997.6 million (up 160%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $496.1 million (down -10.7%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $308.9 million (down -4.2%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $246.2 million (up 7%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $203.1 million (up 9.8%)
- Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $188.9 million (down -0.4%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $170.4 million (down -8.9%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $146.5 million (up 47.9%)
Among these import subcategories, Chilean purchases of electric generating sets and converters (up 160%), electric motors or generators (up 151.3%) then solar power diodes and semi-conductors (up 47.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of electronics-related imports among Chilean businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Chilean importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$1.5 billion (down -54.6% from 2019)
- Trucks: $1.3 billion (down -36.5%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $454 million (down -13.8%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $408.4 million (down -31.8%)
- Tractors: $261 million (down -21.5%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $132.5 million (down -13.6%)
- Trailers: $101.4 million (down -16.4%)
- Motorcycles: $85.3 million (down -30.2%)
- Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $54.5 million (down -28%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $17.8 million (down -11.3%)
Among these import subcategories, Chilean purchases of motorcycle parts or accessories (down -11.3%), special purpose vehicles (down -13.6%) and public-transport vehicles (down -13.8%) reduced at the slowest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of vehicles-related imports among Chilean businesses and consumers.
See also Chile’s Top Trading Partners, Chile’s Top 10 Exports and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. 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 Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 2, 2021