Italy exported US$496.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 7.5% improvement since 2016 but a -6.9% decline from 2019 to 2020.
Applying a continental lens, about two-thirds of Italy’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 15.3% were sold to importers in Asia. Italy shipped another 11.5% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (2%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (1%).
Italy’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Italy’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Italian shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Italian exports.
- Germany: US$63.6 billion (12.8% of Italy’s total exports)
- France: $51.1 billion (10.3%)
- United States: $48.6 billion (9.8%)
- Switzerland: $28.9 billion (5.8%)
- United Kingdom: $25.7 billion (5.2%)
- Spain: $23.4 billion (4.7%)
- Belgium: $17 billion (3.4%)
- Poland: $14.9 billion (3%)
- China: $14.8 billion (3%)
- Netherlands: $12.9 billion (2.6%)
- Austria: $10.5 billion (2.1%)
- Turkey: $8.9 billion (1.8%)
- Japan: $8.1 billion (1.6%)
- Russia: $8.1 billion (1.6%)
- Romania: $7.8 billion (1.6%)
Over two-thirds (69.4%) of Italian exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among these top import purchasers, Belgium showed the greatest growth in demand for Italian products posting a 7.8% increase from 2019 to 2020.
The other expansions in demand belong to China (up 1.8%) and Poland (up 0.1%).
Leading decliners year over year were buyers in Spain (down -13.1%), Austria (down -8.6%), France (down -8.4%) and Russia (down -8.3%).
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. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Italy incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$21.9 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Netherlands: -$12.2 billion
- Germany: -$5.4 billion
- Belgium: -$3.7 billion
- Ireland: -$3.6 billion
- Azerbaijan: -$3.4 billion
- Russia: -$2.5 billion
- Vietnam: -$2.1 billion
- Iraq: -$1.9 billion
- Algeria: -$1.4 billion
Among Italy’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Italian deficits with Ireland (up 21.4%) and China (up 4.6%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Italy’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall Italy posted a trade surplus in 2020 amounting to $73.2 billion, up by 23.9% from the $59.1 billion in black ink one year earlier.
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.
Italy incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United States: US$31.7 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Switzerland: $18.1 billion
- United Kingdom: $16.1 billion
- France: $15.3 billion
- Hong Kong: $4.6 billion
- Poland: $4.2 billion
- Japan: $4 billion
- Australia: $3.8 billion
- Canada: $2.9 billion
- Mexico: $2.5 billion
Among Italy’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Italian surpluses with Poland (up 15.3%), Switzerland (up 6.7%) and France (up 3.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Italy’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Italy to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Italian Import Partners
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)
Based on Wikipedia’s list of Italian companies, the following are also examples of established firms that ship products from Italy to its import partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis is the product category that the Italian business specializes in.
- Alfa Romeo Automobiles SpA (luxury vehicles)
- Campagnolo (bicycle components)
- Eko (guitars)
- Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta (firearms)
- Ferrari SpA (sports cars)
- Ferrero SpA (chocolate confectionery)
- Forst (brewery)
- Luigi Lavazza SpA (whole bean coffee)
- Olivetti SpA (consumer electronics)
See also Italy’s Top 10 Imports, Top EU Export Countries, Italy’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and Italy’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 29, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 29, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 29, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 29, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Italy. Accessed on March 29, 2021