Applying a continental lens, 52.2% of Malta’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 29.6% were sold to importers in Asia. Malta shipped another 11% worth of goods to Africa.
Smaller percentages went to North America (6.1%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.2%).
Malta’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Malta’s top trading partners. That is, countries that imported the most Maltese shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Maltese exports.
- Germany: US$451.2 million (16.8% of Malta’s total exports)
- France: $240.2 million (9%)
- Italy: $184.6 million (6.9%)
- Hong Kong: $151.1 million (5.6%)
- Singapore: $147.9 million (5.5%)
- Japan: $146.3 million (5.5%)
- United States: $130.9 million (4.9%)
- Libya: $69.8 million (2.6%)
- Philippines: $65.7 million (2.5%)
- Hungary: $61.7 million (2.3%)
- Poland: $60.3 million (2.2%)
- Netherlands: $58.4 million (2.2%)
- United Kingdom: $52 million (1.9%)
- China: $47.5 million (1.8%)
- South Korea: $38.1 million (1.4%)
Over two-thirds (71.1%) of total Maltese exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among the above top customers, five countries increased their purchases of Malta’s exports from 2019 to 2020 namely: Philippines (up 127.6%), Hungary (up 94.4%), Poland (up 44.6%), Hong Kong (up 22.7%) and China (up 14.9%).
Four top trade partners shrank their import purchases from Malta year over year: United Kingdom (down -16.6%), Libya (down -14.8%), Hong Kong (down -10.5%) and China (down -9.7%).
Year over year, leading decliners were South Korea (down -55.2%), Libya (down -45.9%), Italy (down -42.4%) and the United States (down -26.4%).
Overall, Malta incurred a -$2.5 billion trade deficit during 2020 down by 37.5% from -$4.1 billion in 2019.
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.
Malta incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Italy: -US$874 million (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- United Kingdom: -$385 million
- China: -$363.3 million
- Spain: -$230.7 million
- Luxembourg: -$228.9 million
- India: -$170.8 million
- Canada: -$144.3 million
- Netherlands: -$131.1 million
- France: -$128.9 million
- Trinidad and Tobago: -$119.3 million
Among Malta’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Maltese deficits with Canada (up 80.9%), China (up 39%) and Spain (up 22%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
In addition, Malta reversed a $17,000 profit trading with Luxembourg in 2019 to garner -$228.9 million in red ink for 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Malta’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Malta to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
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.
Malta generated the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Hong Kong: US$123.4 million (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Singapore: $120.8 million
- Germany: $104.9 million
- Japan: $89.3 million
- Libya: $60.5 million
- Hungary: $51.3 million
- Philippines: $40.5 million
- Poland: $37.9 million
- Sudan: $36 million
- Saudi Arabia: $28.5 million
Among Malta’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Maltese surpluses with Germany (up 974.6%), Philippines (up 283.7%) and Hungary (up 149.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
In addition, Malta reversed a -$61.1 million deficit trading with Saudi Arabia in 2019 to post a $28.5 million surplus for 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Malta’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Malta to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Maltese Trading Partners
Given how small Malta is, it should come as no surprise that not one Maltese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list Maltese companies that engage in international trade. Selected examples are shown below:
- Air Malta plc (airliner)
- Emmanuel Delicata (wine)
- Simonds Farsons Cisk plc (beverages including beer)
See also Malta’s Top 10 Exports and Top EU Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 4, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021