Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Iraqi dinar strengthened by 0.8% against the US dollar since 2016 but depreciated by -0.8% from 2019 to 2020. Iraq’s weaker local currency since 2019 makes its exports paid for in slightly stronger US dollars relatively less expensive in 2020 for those international buyers paying with US currency.
Iraq’s 3 biggest exports by value are crude oil, gold and processed petroleum oils. Combined, those 3 leading exports represent 98.8% of all Iraqi exports. That percentage indicates a highly concentrated portfolio of exported goods.
Major Iraqi Trading Partners
Based on the latest available country-specific estimates from 2014, 89.7% of products exported from Iraq were bought by importers in: 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 40.1 million people, its total $63.3 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $1,600 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Iraq’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iraqi global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iraq.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$55 billion (86.9% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $8 billion (12.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: $82.9 million (0.1%)
- Copper: $50.8 million (0.08%)
- Iron, steel: $31.6 million (0.05%)
- Ships, boats: $23.7 million (0.04%)
- Lead: $18.2 million (0.03%)
- Other chemical goods: $14.2 million (0.02%)
- Machinery including computers: $13.8 million (0.02%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $12.9 million (0.02%)
Iraq’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ships and boats was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 4,449% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel via a 1,202% gain.
Iraq’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 212%.
The leading decliner among Iraq’s top 10 export categories was the fruits and nuts category, thanks to a -77.6% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Iraq’s most valuable exported product accounting for 80.4% of the country’s total. In second place was gold (12.5%) trailed by refined petroleum oils (5.8%), petroleum oil residues (0.6%) and petroleum gases (0.1%).
Iraq posted an estimated $30.1 billion trade surplus for 2020, down -25.1% from $40.2 billion in black ink one year earlier.
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$54.7 billion (Down by -34.9% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $7 billion (Reversing a -$178.5 million deficit)
- Ships, boats: $21.5 million (Reversing a -$5.6 million deficit)
- Lead: $17.9 million (Up by 9.7%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $12.7 million (Down by -30%)
- Copper: $7 million (Down by -21.6%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $5.2 million (Up by 1676.7%)
- Woodpulp: $4.7 million (Down by -55.6%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $447,000 (Reversing a -$6,000 deficit)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $62,000 (Reversing an -$821,000 deficit)
Iraq has highly positive net exports in the international trade of oil well ahead of its surplus for gold. 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.
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$3.8 billion (Down by -32.1% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.2 billion (Down by -53.3%)
- Vehicles: -$2 billion (Down by -56%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.5 billion (Down by -26%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.5 billion (Up by 1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$1.4 billion (Up by 8.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Down by -7.8%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$951.3 million (Down by -1.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$873.4 million (Down by -9.7%)
- Cereals: -$839.6 million (Down by -28.7%)
Iraq has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery products including computers.
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 15.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($413.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 15.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 12.8% for 2019. 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% for 2020, up from an average 12.76% in 2019 according to Trading Economics.
Nicknamed the City of Peace, Baghdad is the capital city for the Republic of Iraq.
See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Palestine’s Top 10 Exports, Egypt’s Top 10 Exports and South Africa’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 24, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 24, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 24, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iraq. Accessed on September 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 24, 2021