Year over year, the overall value of Kuwaiti exported products accelerated by 42.6% compared to $40.1 billion during 2020.
Kuwait’s top 3 most valuable exports are crude oil, processed petroleum oils, and petroleum gases. Collectively, that trio of main exports accounted for 91.5% of Kuwaiti export sales for 2021. Such a high percentage testifies to Kuwait’s intensely concentrated portfolio of exported products.
Given Kuwait’s population of 4.736 million people, its total $57.2 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $12,100 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $8,800 per capita one year earlier for 2020.
Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kuwaiti global shipments during 2021 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kuwait.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$52.6 billion (91.8% of total exports)
- Organic chemicals: $2.4 billion (4.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $755.9 million (1.3%)
- Iron, steel: $272 million (0.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $172.8 million (0.3%)
- Copper: $114.4 million (0.2%)
- Aluminum: $104 million (0.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $79.2 million (0.1%)
- Paper, paper items: $58.9 million (0.1%)
- Other chemical goods: $57.9 million (0.1%)
Kuwait’s top 10 export categories accounted for 98.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Salt, sulphur, stone and cement was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 8,030% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was copper via a 221.5% expansion.
Kuwait’s shipments of aluminum posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 210.5%.
The leading decliner among Kuwait’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers thanks to its -67.7% year-over-year reduction.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the top 10 most valuable export products are led by crude oil which represents Kuwait’s 72.2% of the country’s total international sales. In second place were processed petroleum oils (14.4) trailed by petroleum gases (4.9%), cyclic hydrocarbons (2.4%), acyclic alcohols (1.5%), ethylene polymers (1.1%), non-sublimed sulphur (0.3%), iron or steel scrap (also 0.3%), petroleum oil residues (0.2%), then propylene or olefin polymers (also 0.2%).
Products Generating Kuwait’s Largest Trade Surpluses
Overall Kuwait achieved an estimated $34.2 billion trade surplus for 2021, expanding by 175.4% from $12.4 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Kuwaiti 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$51.8 billion (Up by 44.9% since 2020)
- Organic chemicals: $2.2 billion (Up by 129.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $52.9 million (Reversing a -$174.3 million deficit)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $52 million (Reversing a -$420.7 million deficit)
- Fertilizers: $36.3 million (Reversing a -$14.1 million deficit)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $24.1 million (Down by -25.2%)
- Woodpulp: $23.3 million (Reversing a -$1.6 million deficit)
- Ores, slag, ash: $4.9 million (Reversing a -$4.8 million deficit)
- Nickel: $1.4 million (Reversing a -$3.1 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $820,000 (Up by 5,757%)
Kuwait has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils (both crude and refined) as well as petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Kuwait’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels-related product category.
Products Causing Kuwait’s Worst Trade Deficits
Below are exports from Kuwait that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Kuwait’s goods trail Kuwaiti importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: -US$3.7 billion (Up by 51.6% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.8 billion (Down by -24.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.5 billion (Down by -46.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$911.9 million (Up by 7.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$883.1 million (Down by -39.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$754.2 million (Down by -27.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$725.6 million (Up by 45.3%)
- Meat: -$509.6 million (Down by -7.5%)
- Copper: -$508.7 million (Up by 219.8%)
- Cereals: -$479.5 million (Down by -20.4%)
Kuwait has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably caused by purchases of imported vehicles especially cars.
Kuwaiti Export Companies
Four Kuwaiti corporations rank among the Forbes Global 2000.
- National Bank of Kuwait (financials)
- Kuwait Finance House (financials)
- Zain (telecommunications)
- Kuwait Projects (financials)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Kuwait. Selected examples are shown below.
- Afco Aluminium Factory (aluminum)
- Gulfsat (telecommunications)
- Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (petroleum)
- Kuwait National Petroleum Company (petrochemicals)
- Kuwait Oxygen And Acetylene Company (chemicals)
- Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (petroleum)
- Qualitynet (telecommunications)
- United Fisheries of Kuwait (food)
In macroeconomic terms, Kuwait’s total exported goods represent 26.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($213.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 26.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 20.5% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Kuwait’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Kuwait’s unemployment rate average 1.276% in 2021, same as the average 1.276% in 2020 according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
Kuwait’s capital city is Kuwait City.
See also Crude Oil Exports by Country, Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports, India’s Top Trading Partners, Qatar’s Top 10 Exports and China’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Forbes 2017 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 10, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Wikipedia, Kuwait. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kuwait. Accessed on August 10, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 10, 2022