Kuwait’s 3 biggest exports by value are crude oil, processed petroleum oils, and petroleum gases. Collectively, those 3 leading exports accounted for 89.2% of Kuwaiti exports in 2020. Such a high percentage shows a highly concentrated portfolio of exported products.
Given Kuwait’s population of 4.883 million people, its total $42.8 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $8,800 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Kuwait’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kuwaiti global shipments during 2020 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$38.3 billion (89.4% of total exports)
- Organic chemicals: $1.4 billion (3.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $1 billion (2.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $768.8 million (1.8%)
- Iron, steel: $166.8 million (0.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $77.8 million (0.2%)
- Other chemical goods: $61.6 million (0.1%)
- Copper: $58.6 million (0.1%)
- Aluminum: $57.3 million (0.1%)
Kuwait’s top 10 exports accounted for 98.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 122.3% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was copper via a 53.4% gain.
Kuwait’s shipments of aluminum posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 31.6%.
The leading decliner among Kuwait’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers, dragged down by a -74.9% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Kuwait’s most valuable export product at 73.4% of the country’s total. In second place were processed petroleum oils (11.4) trailed by petroleum gases (4.5%), aircraft and spacecraft (2.4%), cyclic hydrocarbons (1.9%), ethylene polymers (1.4%), acyclic alcohols (1.3%), and propylene or olefin polymers (0.3%).
Overall Kuwait achieved an estimated $21.3 billion trade surplus for 2020, down by -31.1% from $31 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$37.5 billion (Down by -35.9% since 2019)
- Organic chemicals: $1.3 billion (Down by -7.6%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $294.5 million (Reversing a -$16.4 million deficit)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $190.2 million (Reversing a -$414.9 million deficit)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $29.4 million (Down by -17.2%)
- Woodpulp: $3.2 million (Down by -2.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $697,000 (Reversing a -$29.7 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $284,000 (Down by -3.1%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $140,000 (Reversing a -$1.3 million deficit)
Kuwait has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils (both crude and refined) and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Kuwait’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels-related product category.
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 billion (Down by -9.6% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.9 billion (Down by -48.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.4 billion (Down by -58.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$923.1 million (Down by -49.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$789.2 million (Down by -5.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$717.2 million (Down by -46.8%)
- Copper: -$643.3 million (Up by 379.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$509.6 million (Down by -15.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$508.4 million (Down by -11.6%)
- Cereals: -$444.4 million (Down by -32.2%)
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 20.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($208.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 17.5% for 2019. 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 average unemployment rate was 2.3% in 2020, down from an average 2.41% in 2019 according to Trading Economics.
Kuwait’s capital city is Kuwait City.
See also Crude Oil Exports by Country, Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports and Top Middle Eastern Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 18, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 18, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Wikipedia, Kuwait. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kuwait. Accessed on September 18, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 18, 2021