The latest trade partner data from 2018 shows that 64% of products exported from Lebanon were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (15.5% of the global total), Saudi Arabia (6.6%), Syria (6.4%), Turkey (6%), South Africa (5.3%), Qatar (4.7%), Iraq (also 4.7%), Switzerland (4.1%), China (3.5%), Jordan (2.7%), Kuwait (2.4%) then the United States (2.2%).
From a continental perspective, about 59% of Lebanese exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 18.5% were sold to African importers. Lebanon shipped another 17.4% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (3%), Latin America (1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.6%) led by Australia.
Given Lebanon’s population of 6.1 million people, its total $3 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $500 for every resident in the Middle Eastern nation.
Lebanon’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Lebanese global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Lebanon.
- Gems, precious metals: US$1.2 billion (40.8% of total exports)
- Arms, ammunition: $416.6 million (13.9%)
- Copper: $101.7 million (3.4%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $99.9 million (3.3%)
- Machinery including computers: $85.9 million (2.9%)
- Iron, steel: $80.1 million (2.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $76.1 million (2.5%)
- Lead: $57 million (1.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $55.8 million (1.9%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $52.2 million (1.7%)
Lebanon’s top 10 exports accounted for 75% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Arms including ammunition represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 62,926% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was rubber including articles made from rubber via a 1,015% gain. Lebanon’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 85.5%, propelled by higher international sales of gold and jewelry.
The leading decliner among Lebanon’s top 10 export categories was electrical machinery and equipment thanks to a -57.5% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold (35.7% of the global total) represents Lebanon’s most valuable export products for 2019. In second place were explosive-charge weapons (13.9%) trailed by jewelry (3.8%), copper waste or scrap (3.2%), iron or steel scrap (2.6%), lead (1.9%), new rubber tires (1.7%), miscellaneous preserved fruits (also 1.7%) then tobacco (1.4%) and printed books and brochures (also 1.4%).
Eight categories of Lebanese exported products generated 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$849.1 million (Reversing a -$591.5 million deficit in 2018)
- Arms, ammunition: $393.7 million (Reversing a -$15.9 million deficit)
- Lead: $56.9 million (Up by 83.2% since 2018)
- Copper: $45.1 million (Reversing a -$1.2 million deficit)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $42.3 million (Up by 89.3%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $19.2 million (Up by 1847.4%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $15.2 million (Up by 4.7%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $5.6 million (Up by 110.8%)
Lebanon has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Lebanon’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals product category.
Overall Lebanon incurred an -$11.2 billion product trade deficit for 2019. That deficit reflects a -32.8% reduction in red ink from one year earlier.
Below are exports from Lebanon that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Lebanon’s goods trail Lebanese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$3.3 billion (Down by -18.6% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -20.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$875.4 million (Down by -31.1%)
- Machinery including computers: -$831.4 million (Down by -21.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$534.9 million (Down by -41.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$420.4 million (Down by -8.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$333.3 million (Up by 11.5%)
- Cereals: -$332.8 million (Up by 4.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$284 million (Down by -19.6%)
- Live animals: -$229.7 million (Down by -43.8%)
Lebanon has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, including for refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases and petroleum coke.
Lebanese Export Companies
Two regional banks headquartered in Lebanon rank among Forbes Global 2000, namely Bank Audi and Blom Bank.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Lebanon. Selected examples are shown below.
- Bonjus (juice)
- Château Musar (winery)
- IXSIR wine (winery)
- Massaya (winery, distillery)
- Middle East Airlines (airliner)
- Tabbah (jewelry)
In macroeconomic terms, Lebanon’s total exported goods represent 3.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($91.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 3.7% for 2018. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Lebanon’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Lebanon’s average unemployment rate was 6% for 2019, same as one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Lebanon’s capital city is Beirut, nicknamed “Paris of the East”.
See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports and Bahrain’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on Middle East: Lebanon. Accessed on August 5, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Lebanon. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Forbes 2019 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on August 5, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 5, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Wikipedia, Lebanon. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Lebanon. Accessed on August 5, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 5, 2020
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Beirut, Lebanon. Accessed on August 5, 2020