That dollar amount represents a -29.3% decline since 2017 when Panamanian exports equaled $10.6 billion.
Year over year, Panamanian exports dropped in value by -22.3% from $9.7 billion during 2020.
Panama’s top 5 most valuable exported products are copper ores and concentrates, cruise or cargo ships and barges, medication mixes in dosage, bananas including plantains, and fresh whole fish. Collectively, the 5 major products generated about three-fifths (60.4%) of overall Panamanian exports.
Panama’s Largest Trade Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 58.9% of products exported from Panama were bought by importers in: the United States of America (9.6% of Panama’s global total), Costa Rica (7.7%), Colombia (6%), Guatemala (5.1%), Dominican Republic (4.6%), Honduras (4.3%), Venezuela (4.1%), mainland China (3.9%), Nicaragua (3.8%), El Salvador (3.4%), Ecuador (3.3%) and the Netherlands (3.2%).
From a continental perspective, well over two-thirds (70.9%) of Panamanian exports by value were delivered to Latin American countries excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Another 11.7% were sold to North American importers, trailed by 9.2% for customers in Asia and 8% for European buyers.
Tiny percentages went to importers in Africa (0.14%) and Oceania (0.08%) led by Australia and Samoa.
Given Panama’s population of 4.3 million people, its total $7.5 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $1,700 for every resident in the Central American nation.
Panama’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Panamanian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Panama.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines is Panama’s most valuable exported product followed by sulphonamides, amino-compounds, smartphones then footwear.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$2.8 billion (37.9% of total exports)
- Ships, boats: $830.6 million (11.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $574.4 million (7.7%)
- Zinc: $326.3 million (4.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $304.9 million (4.1%)
- Organic chemicals: $206.1 million (2.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $194.2 million (2.6%)
- Gems, precious metals: $167.5 million (2.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $167.4 million (2.2%)
- Footwear: $111.6 million (1.5%)
Panama’s top 10 exported product categories accounted for 76.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ships and boats represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 71,815% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil via a 6,095% gain, propelled by higher international revenues from Panama’s exports of refined petroleum oils.
Panama’s shipments of organic chemicals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 174.6%.
The leading decliner among Panama’s top 10 export categories was electrical machinery and equipment, thanks to its -84.6% drop year over year.
At the more detailed 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Panama’s most valuable exported products were copper ores and concentrates (37.9% of global total), cruise and cargo ships or barges (8.5%), medication mixes in dosage (6.3%), bananas including plantains (4%), processed petroleum oils (3.7%), whole fresh fish (1.3%), gold (also 1.3%), light vessels, fire boats and floating docks (also 1.3%), iron or steel scrap (1.1%) then blood fractions including antisera (1%).
Country 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 (Up by 166.3% since 2020)
- Fruits, nuts: $240.4 million (Up by 124.6%)
- Fish: $172.6 million (Up by 242.5%)
- Copper: $12.6 million (Up by 844.4%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $12.1 million (Up by 105.7%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $4.9 million (Up by 434.5%)
- Lead: $4.8 million (Up by 118.4%)
- Coated/laminated textile fabric: $2.5 million (Reversing a -$4.2 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $2 million (Reversing a -$683,000 deficit)
- Woodpulp: $753,000 (Reversing a -$181,000 deficit)
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.
Country Causing Panama’s Worst Trade Deficits
Overall, Panama incurred a -$35.5 billion product trade deficit during 2021, up by 597.7% from -$5.1 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2020.
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$13.4 billion (Up by 1,350% since 2020)
- Ships, boats: -$6.2 billion (Up by 101,093%)
- Machinery including computers: -$2.5 billion (Up by 332.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.8 billion (Up by 408.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.2 billion (Up by 13,150%)
- Vehicles: -$884.4 million (Up by 87%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$729.2 million (Up by 457.6%)
- Organic chemicals: -$630.2 million (Up by 243.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$602.7 million (Up by 4,518%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$539.3 million (Up by 199.7%)
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 5.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($138.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 5.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 suggests a modest 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 11.293% for 2021, down from an average 18.548% in 2020 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 June 27, 2022
Forbes 2021 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 27, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 27, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 27, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 27, 2022
Wikimedia Commons, Flag of Panama. Accessed on June 27, 2022
Wikipedia, Panama. Accessed on June 27, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Panama. Accessed on June 27, 2022
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Panama City, Panama. Accessed on June 27, 2022