That projected dollar amount results from a 33.1% upturn compared to $11.6 billion five years earlier in 2018.
Year over year, Panamanian exports rose in value by 15.7% from $13.4 billion during 2021.
Panama’s Largest Trade Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 65.4% of products exported from Panama was bought by importers in: United States of America (8.4% of the Panamanian total), mainland China (7.9%), Venezuela (7.8%), Panama (6.8%), Costa Rica (6.2%), Colombia (5.2%), Dominican Republic (4.4%), Guatemala (4.3%), Honduras (4%), Japan (3.6%), Spain (3.4%) and El Salvador (3.38%).
From a continental perspective, 64.1% of Panama’s exports by value was delivered to customers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean countries while 16.8% was sold to importers in Asia. Panama shipped another 10.5% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to buyers in Europe (8.4%), Africa (0.2%), and Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Panama’s population of 4.4 million people, its total $15.5 billion in 2022 exports translates to roughly $3,500 for every resident in the Central American nation. That per-capita metric is more than double the average $1,700 for 2021.
Panama’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Panamanian global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Panama.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$2.8 billion (18.1% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $2 billion (12.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.6 billion (10.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $1.2 billion (7.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $954.6 million (6.2%)
- Footwear: $952.2 million (6.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $811.2 million (5.2%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $575 million (3.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $554.4 million (3.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $514 million (3.3%)
Panama’s top 10 exported product categories generated over three-quarters (77%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Organic chemicals represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 136.4% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for improving export sales was beverages, spirits and vinegar via a 45.1% advance.
Panama’s shipments of perfumes and cosmetics posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 26.1%.
The leading decliner among Panama’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers, pulled down by a -3.1% year-over-year drop.
The above listed product categories are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
Drilling down to the more detailed 4-digit HTS codes, Panama’s most valuable exported products were copper ores and concentrates (18.1% of the Panamanian total), medication mixes in dosage (12.1%), phone devices including smartphones (3.6%), alcoholic beverages including spirits and liqueurs (3%), rubber or plastic footwear (2.8%), heterocyclics and nucleic acids (2.6%), sulphonamides (2.2%), perfumes and toilet waters (also 2.2%), textile footwear (2%), television receivers, monitors and projectors (1.7%).
Products Generating Panama’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Panamanian 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.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$2.8 billion (Down by -0.6% since 2021)
- Fruits, nuts: $77.8 million (Down by -18.8%)
- Fish: $76.8 million (Up by 52.7%)
- Photo/cinematographic goods: $6.1 million (Reversing a -$3.4 million deficit)
- Lead: $4.5 million (Up by 11%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $4.1 million (Up by 47.8%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $2.9 million (Up by 31.6%)
- Textile floor coverings: $1.3 million (Down by -46.1%)
- Woodpulp: $420,000 (Reversing a -$1.4 million deficit)
- Copper: $111,000 (Down by -96.4%)
Panama has highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Panama’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash product category.
Products Causing Panama’s Worst Trade Deficits
Overall, Panama incurred a -US$13.8 billion product trade deficit during 2022, expanding by 90.8% from -$7.2 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2021.
Below are exports from Panama that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Panama’s goods trail Panamanian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$3.6 billion (Up by 84% since 2021)
- Organic chemicals: -$2.3 billion (Up by 918%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.3 billion (Up by 41%)
- Vehicles: -$1.1 billion (Up by 28.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$857.2 million (Up by 599.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$822.6 million (Up by 13.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$513.9 million (Up by 4.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$463.2 million (Up by 46%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$342.8 million (Up by 12.7%)
- Cereals: -$309.5 million (Up by 26.3%)
Panama has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil product category particularly for petroleum oils (both refined and crude) and petroleum gas.
Panamanian Export Companies
Not one Panamanian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia identifies some international trade-related entities conducting business in Panama. Selected examples are shown below:
- Bering Motors (automobiles)
- DHL Aero Expreso (cargo airliner)
A considerable number of Panamanian exporters list their products on the global sales portal Alibaba.com. The following are selected examples; each firm’s principal products are shown within parentheses.
- CIBO SA (sugar)
- Gainway Metal Recycling Corp (scrap metal)
- Grupo Prado E Hijos (cargo ships)
- Interbahn Global Ltd (teak logs)
- Kwinana Tech International (computers, accessories)
- Live Well Pharmaceuticals (drugs, medicines)
- PILSA (rum)
- Salva-Mar SA (fresh fish)
In macroeconomic terms, Panama’s total exported goods represent 9.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($164.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 9.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 eclipses the 5.4% for 2021. Those percentages suggest an increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Panama’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Panama’s unemployment rate averaged 8.8% for 2022, down from an average 11.293% in 2021 according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
Panama’s capital is Panama City.
See also Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports, Guatemala’s Top Trading Partners, Honduras Top 10 Imports, Colombia’s Top Trading Partners and Top US Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Central America and Caribbean: Panama. Accessed on July 13, 2023
Forbes 2022 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 13, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 13, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 13, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 13, 2023
Wikimedia Commons, Flag of Panama. Accessed on July 13, 2023
Wikipedia, Panama. Accessed on July 13, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Panama. Accessed on July 13, 2023
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Panama City, Panama. Accessed on July 13, 2023