Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Iraqi dinar depreciated by -1.3% against the US dollar since 2015 but appreciated by a modest 0.1% from 2018 to 2019. Iraq’s stronger local currency since 2018 makes its exports paid for in slightly weaker US relatively more expensive for international buyers in 2019.
Based on the latest available country-specific data from 2015, 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 39.1 million people, its total $90 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $2,300 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 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iraq.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$87.4 billion (97.1% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $2.4 billion (2.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $72.2 million (0.1%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $16.1 million (0.02%)
- Copper: $14.3 million (0.02%)
- Woodpulp: $14 million (0.02%)
- Lead: $12.7 million (0.01%)
- Aluminum: $11 million (0.01%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $9.5 million (0.01%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $4.1 million (0.01%)
Iraq’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.9% of the overall value of its global shipments, a metric showing that Iraqi export products are intensely concentrated in petroleum-related products.
Lead was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 224.8% from 2018 to 2019. The other expansion was for the gems and precious metals via a 73.2% gain powered by higher revenues from international gold sales.
The leading decliner among Iraq’s top 10 export categories was aluminum due to its -81.4% decline 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 92.6% of the country’s total. In second place were refined petroleum oils (4.3%) trailed by unprocessed gold (2.7%) then petroleum oil residues (0.2%).
Iraq posted an estimated $57.7 billion trade surplus for 2019, up 30.1% from 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$86.4 billion (Down by -7.1% since 2018)
- Gems, precious metals: $981.1 million (Reversing a -$1.1 billion deficit in 2018)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $16 million (Up by 406.6%)
- Lead: $12.4 million (Up by 243.5%)
- Woodpulp: $11.5 million (Down by -54.5%)
- Wool: $729,000 (Reversing a -$3.3 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $381,000 (Down by -89.3%)
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-$4.1 billion (Down by -17.2% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.8 billion (Down by -59.1%)
- Vehicles: -$2.7 billion (Down by -16.2%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.6 billion (Down by -9.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.2 billion (Down by -52.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$1.2 billion (Up by 5.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1 billion (Down by -22.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$937.9 million (Down by -8.4%)
- Cereals: -$856.3 million (Down by -38.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$749.3 million (Up by 5.8%)
Iraq has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery products.
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 12.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($704.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 12.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 14.5% for 2018. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing 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 unemployment rate was an estimated 7.4% for 2019, same as in 2018, 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, Egypt’s Top 10 Exports and South Africa’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 26, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 26, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 26, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iraq. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 26, 2020