That dollar amount reflects a 20.5% expansion since 2017 when Italy’s exports totaled $507.2 billion and accelerated by 22.6% from $498.4 billion in 2020.
The 5 most valuable exports from Italy are medication mixes, cars, processed petroleum oils, automobile parts or accessories, then case, handbags and wallets. Combined, that quintet of leading Italian exports represents 13.5% of overall exports from Italy in 2021.
Such a low percentage implies Italy’s highly diversified range of exported products.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, Italy’s official currency the euro appreciated by 5% against the US dollar since 2017 and strengthened by 3.9% from 2020 to 2021. The stronger European Union currency in 2021 made Italy’s exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Major Buyer Countries Importing from Italy
The latest available country-specific data shows that almost two-thirds (64.2%) of products exported from Italy were bought by importers in: Germany (13% of Italy’s global total), France (10.2%), United States of America (9.6%), Switzerland (5.3%), Spain (5%), United Kingdom (4.5%), Belgium (3.5%), Poland (3.1%), mainland China (3%), Netherlands (2.9%), Austria (2.2%) and Turkey (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, 65.5% of Italy’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 15.1% were sold to importers in Asia. Italy shipped another 11.3% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (2.1%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (1%).
Given Italy’s population of 59.2 million people, its total $611 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $10,300 for every resident in the south European nation. That dollar metric exceeds the average $8,200 per capita in 2020.
Italy’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Italian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Italy.
- Machinery including computers: US$108.1 billion (17.7% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $45.4 billion (7.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $37.7 billion (6.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $36.7 billion (6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $26.3 billion (4.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $21.3 billion (3.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $20.8 billion (3.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $19.6 billion (3.2%)
- Iron, steel: $19.2 billion (3.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $15.8 billion (2.6%)
Italy’s top 10 exports accounted for 57.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 75.3% from 2020 to 2021. That product category was propelled by Italy’s greater international sales of refined petroleum oils.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel as materials via a 72.9% gain.
Italy’s shipments of articles made from iron or steel posted the third-fastest acceleration in value, up by 28.2%.
Year over year, the most modest advance among Italy’s top 10 export categories belongs to pharmaceuticals, thanks to its 1.7% increase.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Italy’s Most Valuable Export Products below.
Products Generating Best Trade Surpluses for Italy
Overall Italy posted a trade surplus in 2021 amounting to $59.5 billion, down by -17.7% from the $72.3 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Italian 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 reflect 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.
- Machinery including computers: US$54.2 billion (Up by 14.2% since 2020)
- Articles of iron or steel: $13.8 billion (Up by 24.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $11.1 billion (Up by 23.4%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $10.2 billion (Up by 15.7%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $8.4 billion (Up by 31.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $6.1 billion (Down by -18.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $6.1 billion (Up by 42.5%)
- Footwear: $5.7 billion (Up by 20.5%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $5.5 billion (Up by 9%)
- Ceramic products: $5.3 billion (Up by 19.6%)
Italy has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery–a product category that includes computers. In turn, these cashflows indicate Italy’s strong competitive advantages in producing machinery for international markets.
Products Causing Worst Trade Deficits for Italy
Below are exports from Italy that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Italy’s goods trail Italian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$45.1 billion (Up by 83.3% since 2020)
- Organic chemicals: -$10.3 billion (Up by 15.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$9.4 billion (Up by 149.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$8.6 billion (Up by 64.8%)
- Fish: -$5.4 billion (Up by 31.2%)
- Copper: -$4.9 billion (Up by 121.5%)
- Cereals: -$3.2 billion (Up by 15.7%)
- Wood: -$3.1 billion (Up by 50.1%)
- Meat: -$2.2 billion (Down by -4.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$2.2 billion (Up by 28.1%)
Italy has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products notably crude oil, petroleum gas, electrical energy, coal and peat.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Italy’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in cleaner alternative energy sources.
Major Italian Export Companies
Thirty corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Italian companies that Forbes included.
- Eni (oil, gas)
- Finmeccanica (aerospace)
- Parmalat (food processing)
- Pirelli & C (automotive parts)
- Prada (clothing, accessories)
- Prysmian (electrical equipment)
- Saras (oil, gas)
- Telecom Italia (telecommunications services)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Italian exporters.
- Acciaierie Valbruna (stainless steel bars, rods, doors, window frames)
- Chateau D AX (wood seats, chemicals)
- Emilceramica (ceramic tiles, building tiles)
Searchable List of Italy’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Italy during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Italy's Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Medication mixes in dosage||$25,762,378,000||-4.3%|
|3||Processed petroleum oils||$15,447,592,000||+78.5%|
|5||Cases, handbags, wallets||$10,359,288,000||+27.1%|
|6||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$9,674,930,000||+23%|
|8||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$8,829,145,000||+17.7%|
|12||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$6,973,713,000||+8.7%|
|15||Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles, cubes||$5,387,345,000||+22.5%|
|17||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$4,930,923,000||+55.9%|
|18||Liquid pumps and elevators||$4,832,161,000||+18.1%|
|21||Air or vacuum pumps||$4,472,615,000||+23.6%|
|22||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$4,422,951,000||+35%|
|25||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$4,133,627,000||+25.3%|
|26||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$4,088,243,000||+29.1%|
|28||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$3,977,179,000||+27.4%|
|29||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$3,918,201,000||+21.3%|
|30||Phone devices including smartphones||$3,813,825,000||+4.1%|
|31||Miscellaneous plastic items||$3,663,930,000||+18.3%|
|34||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$3,496,584,000||+45.6%|
|35||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$3,432,454,000||+30.1%|
|36||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$3,409,404,000||+23.1%|
|38||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$3,308,444,000||+24%|
|39||Electrical converters/power units||$3,214,632,000||+21.9%|
|40||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$3,186,339,000||+20.1%|
|41||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$3,159,340,000||+22.6%|
|43||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$2,825,223,000||+12.9%|
|44||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$2,727,967,000||+79.5%|
|45||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$2,713,748,000||+18.7%|
|47||Other animal leather||$2,588,492,000||+23.3%|
|48||Piston engine parts||$2,531,503,000||+20.2%|
|50||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$2,475,390,000||+18.1%|
|52||Flat-rolled stainless steel items||$2,424,539,000||+76.5%|
|53||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$2,416,685,000||+14.6%|
|55||Industrial preparation machinery||$2,328,498,000||+17.9%|
|56||Electric motors, generators||$2,286,762,000||+20.9%|
|58||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$2,244,448,000||+20.4%|
|59||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$2,211,103,000||+19.3%|
|62||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$2,176,112,000||+26.7%|
|63||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$2,169,151,000||+26.6%|
|65||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,133,169,000||+11.8%|
|67||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$2,060,067,000||+5.8%|
|68||Computers, optical readers||$2,025,462,000||+13%|
|69||Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs||$1,995,438,000||+19.5%|
|70||Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)||$1,976,232,000||+28.6%|
|71||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,966,558,000||+26%|
|72||T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)||$1,960,355,000||+11.4%|
|74||Base metal mountings, fittings||$1,923,243,000||+31.4%|
|75||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,920,087,000||+84.3%|
|76||Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances||$1,867,889,000||+17.9%|
|77||Miscellaneous aluminum items||$1,833,190,000||+24.7%|
|78||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,771,539,000||+29.7%|
|79||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,747,706,000||+8.7%|
|81||Rubber tires (new)||$1,730,291,000||+20.7%|
|82||Iron or steel pipe fittings||$1,713,217,000||+6%|
|83||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$1,712,971,000||+69.8%|
|84||Monument/building stones, art||$1,703,182,000||+24.6%|
|85||Other food preparations||$1,687,732,000||+19.6%|
|88||Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)||$1,662,889,000||+18.7%|
|90||Footwear (rubber or plastic)||$1,588,458,000||+31.4%|
|91||Other machine parts, accessories||$1,581,130,000||+22%|
|92||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$1,577,051,000||+7.6%|
|93||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$1,564,903,000||+27.4%|
|94||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$1,551,459,000||+19.2%|
|96||Spectacle/goggle frames, mountings||$1,544,701,000||+44.4%|
|99||Vulcanized rubber items||$1,456,897,000||+24.2%|
|100||Ball, roller bearings||$1,455,039,000||+21.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$374.1 billion or over three-fifths (61.2%) of the overall value of products exported from Italy during 2021.
Expanding the scope to these 100 most valuable exported goods, the fastest growers among Italy’s exports were hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (up 84.3% from 2020), plated or coated flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (up 79.5%), processed petroleum oils (up 78.5%), items made from flat-rolled stainless steel (up 76.5%), bars or rods made from iron or non-alloy steel (up 69.8%), and jewelry (up 69.7%).
In macroeconomic terms, Italy’s total exported goods represent 22.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($2.734 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 22.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 20.5% one year earlier. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Italy’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Italy’s average unemployment rate was an average 9.542% in 2021, up from an average 9.342% for 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Italy’s capital city is Rome.
See also Italy’s Top Trading Partners, Italy’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Italy’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 31, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 31, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 31, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 31, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 31, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 31, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 28, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Italy. Accessed on May 31, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 28, 2021
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on May 31, 2022