Year over year, Iraqi exports accelerated by 30.3% from $64.7 billion during 2020.
By value, Iraq’s 3 largest exports in 2021 were mainly crude oil, processed petroleum oils, and unwrought gold. Combined, those 3 main exports represent 97.2% of all Iraqi exports. That percentage reveals the highly concentrated nature of portfolio of exported Iraqi products.
Major Iraqi Trading Partners
Based on the latest available country-specific estimates, 89.7% of products exported from Iraq were bought by importers in: mainland China (23.9% of the global total), India (21.4%), South Korea (11.8%), United States (8.6%), Italy (7.1%), Greece (6.5%), Netherlands (3.5%), Taiwan (2.6%), Spain (2.4%) and Singapore (1.9%).
Given Iraq’s population of 41.2 million people, its total $84.4 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $2,000 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $1,600 per capita one year earlier during 2020.
Iraq’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iraqi global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iraq.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$81.7 billion (96.9% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $984.7 million (1.2%)
- Cereals: $770 million (0.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $105.7 million (0.13%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $101.2 million (0.12%)
- Machinery including computers: $100.6 million (0.12%)
- Aluminum: $77 million (0.09%)
- Woodpulp: $72.9 million (0.09%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $63.3 million (0.08%)
- Copper: $59 million (0.07%)
Iraq’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Food industry waste and animal fodder represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 215,234% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was cereals via a 103,676% advance led by wheat, corn and barley.
Iraq’s shipments of animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes posted the third-fastest expansion in value up by 1,848%.
The sole decliner among Iraq’s top 10 export categories was gems and precious metals thanks to its -87.7% year-over-year drop. That product category was dragged down by lower international sales of Iraqi gold.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Iraq’s most valuable exported product accounting for 90.5% of the country’s total. In second place were refined petroleum oils (5.5%), gold (1.2%) trailed by petroleum oil residues (0.5%), wheat (0.4%), corn (0.3%) then petroleum gases (0.2%).
Products Generating Iraq’s Largest Trade Surpluses
Iraq posted a projected $38.8 billion trade surplus for 2021, up by 203.9% from an estimated $12.8 billion in black ink one year earlier in 2020.
The following types of Iraqi 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$76.9 billion (Up by 43.6% since 2020)
- Woodpulp: $67 million (Up by 265.1%)
- Lead: $27 million (Up by 48.7%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $20.8 million (Up by 487.4%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $767,000 (Down by -89.2%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $724,000 (Up by 140.5%)
Iraq has highly positive net exports in the international trade of oil including both crude oil and refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iraq’s strong competitive advantages under the petroleum product category. The flipside of the coin is that Iraq’s international trade scorecard depends heavily on global oil prices and, lacking product diversification, is vulnerable to petroleum-specific downturns.
Products Causing Iraq’s Severest Trade Deficits
Below are exports from Iraq that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Iraq’s goods trail Iraqi importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$4.1 billion (Down by -29.6% since 2020)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.3 billion (Down by -55.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$2.3 billion (Up by 5.9%)
- Vehicles: -$2.1 billion (Down by -42%)
- Iron, steel: -$2 billion (Up by 52.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.7 billion (Down by -14.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$1.5 billion (Up by 5.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.4 billion (Up by 0.3%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$962.6 million (Down by -20.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$843.4 million (Down by -23.1%)
Iraq has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for under the machinery products including computers product category.
Iraqi Export Companies
Not one Iraqi corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list major companies from Iraq, some of which are active participants in international trade. Selected examples are shown below.
- Iraq National Oil Company (crude oil, natural gas)
- Iraqi Airways Company (domestic/regional airliner)
- Iraqi Oil Tankers Company (maritime transport of petroleum)
- Trade Bank of Iraq (trade deal financing)
In macroeconomic terms, Iraq’s total exported goods represent 19.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($440.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 19.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 15.3% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Iraq’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Iraq’s average unemployment rate was 13.74% at the end of December 2020, up from an average 12.76% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Nicknamed the City of Peace, Baghdad is the capital city for the Republic of Iraq.
See also UAE’s Top 10 Exports, Palestine’s Top 10 Exports, Egypt’s Top 10 Exports and Syria’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 23, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 23, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 23, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 23, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 23, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iraq. Accessed on July 23, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 23, 2022