India exported US$275.5 billion worth of products around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 5.6% increase since 2016 but a -14.8% decline from 2019 to 2020.
Applying a continental lens, 46.9% of India’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.1% were sold to North American importers. India shipped another 18.7% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (9.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (3.4%) then Oceania led by Australia (1.5%).
India’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list highlighting 15 of India’s top trading partners in terms of countries that imported the most Indian shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Indian exports.
- United States: US$49.3 billion (17.9% of India’s total exports)
- China: $19 billion (6.9%)
- United Arab Emirates: $18 billion (6.5%)
- Hong Kong: $9.5 billion (3.5%)
- Singapore: $8.3 billion (3%)
- Bangladesh: $7.91 billion (2.9%)
- United Kingdom: $7.77 billion (2.8%)
- Germany: $7.7 billion (2.8%)
- Netherlands: $6.3 billion (2.3%)
- Malaysia: $6.2 billion (2.2%)
- Saudi Arabia: $6.2 billion (2.2%)
- Nepal: $5.9 billion (2.1%)
- Belgium: $4.57 billion (1.7%)
- South Korea: $4.52 billion (1.6%)
- Vietnam: $4.5 billion (1.6%)
About three-fifths (60.1%) of Indian exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
India grew its export sales to just two among the above trade partners namely China (up 10%) and Saudi Arabia (up 3%).
Leading the decliners year over year were importers in the UAE (down -39.2%), Netherlands (down -29.7%) and Belgium (down -26.2%).
Overall, India incurred a -$92.5 billion trade deficit for all products during 2020, shrinking -40.6% from -$155.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. That export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
India incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$39.8 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Iraq: -$14.7 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$11.6 billion
- Switzerland: -$10.1 billion
- Indonesia: -$7.7 billion
- South Korea: -$7.7 billion
- Qatar: -$6.9 billion
- Japan: -$6.2 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$5.9 billion
- Hong Kong: -$5 billion
Only India’s deficit with the United Arab Emirates increased from 2019 to 2020 via a 672.9% expansion year over year.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate India’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for India to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
India incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- United States: US$22.7 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Bangladesh: $6.9 billion
- Nepal: $5.2 billion
- Netherlands: $3.3 billion
- United Kingdom: $3.1 billion
- Sri Lanka: $2.5 billion
- Turkey: $2.1 billion
- Iran: $1.95 billion
- Kenya: $1.89 billion
- Spain: $1.7 billion
Among India’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Indian surpluses with Iran (up 305.9%), United Kingdom (up 59.3%) and United States (up 17.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate India’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for India to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Indian Trading Partners
India placed over 50 corporations on the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. Many of these are major Indian export companies. Below is a selection of some of the biggest Indian corporations.
- Reliance Industries (oil, gas)
- Tata Motors (cars, trucks)
- Indian Oil (oil, gas)
- Coal India (diversified metals, mining)
- ITC (tobacco)
- Bharat Heavy Electricals (electrical equipment)
- Hindalco Industries (aluminum)
- Tata Steel (iron, steel)
- Bharat Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Hindustan Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Sun Pharma Industries (pharmaceuticals)
- Steel Authority of India (iron, steel)
- Bajaj Auto (recreational products)
- Hero Motocorp (recreational products)
- Grasim Industries (construction materials)
- JSW Steel (iron, steel)
See also India’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, India’s Top 10 Imports, India’s Top 10 Exports and Top Indian Trade Balances
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on May 19, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 19, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 19, 2021
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on May 19, 2021
TradeIndia.com, Sellers by category. Accessed on May 19, 2021