That dollar amount reflects a 3% increase since 2016 but a -6.4% drop from 2019 to 2020.
Tunisia biggest 5 exports are insulated wire or cable; olive oil; unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers; unknitted and non-crocheted women’s clothing; and automobile parts or accessories. Those 5 most valuable commodities represent almost a third (32.3%) of the total value for all Tunisian exported goods during 2020.
Major Tunisian Trading Partners
An examination of the latest available 2019 data shows that 78.8% of products exported from Tunisia were bought by importers in: France (29.1% of the global total), Italy (16.2%), Germany (12.8%), Spain (3.8%), Libya (3.6%), Algeria (2.7%), United Kingdom (2.2%), Netherlands (2%), United States (1.8%), Belgium (1.7%), Morocco (1.6%) and Poland (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 80.4% of Tunisia’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 11.5% were sold to fellow African importers. Tunisia shipped another 5.2% worth of goods to Asia.
Smaller percentages went to North America (2.5%), Latin America (0.4%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.1%) led Australia and New Zealand.
Given Tunisia’s population of 11.9 million people, its total $14 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $1,200 for every resident in the northern African country.
Tunisia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tunisian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tunisia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$3.9 billion (27.7% of total exports)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.1 billion (15%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $911.7 million (6.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $763.2 million (5.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $569.3 million (4.1%)
- Footwear: $559.4 million (4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $528.9 million (3.8%)
- Machinery including computers: $493.3 million (3.5%)
- Vehicles: $460.1 million (3.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $415.4 million (3%)
Tunisia’s top 10 exports accounted for 76.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Animal or vegetable fats, oil and, waxes was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 63.5% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was knitted or crocheted clothing or accessories via a 38.1% gain.
Tunisia’s shipments of footwear posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 29%.
The leading decliner among Tunisia’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -35.9% drop in revenues year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, insulated wire or cable represents Tunisia’s most valuable exported product worth 13.1% of the country’s total. In second place was olive oil (6.3%) trailed by unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers (6.1%), unknitted and non-crocheted women’s clothing (3.9%), automobile parts or accessories (2.9%), phone system devices including smartphones (2.7%), lower-voltage switches and fuses (also 2.7%), processed petroleum oils (2%) and leather footwear (1.9%).
The following types of Tunisian 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.
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): US$2 billion (Up by 37.2% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.2 billion (Up by 32.6%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $756.7 million (Up by 109.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $642.5 million (Up by 49.3%)
- Footwear: $426.8 million (Up by 56.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $272.4 million (Up by 1.6%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $205.4 million (Up by 71%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $166 million (Down by -33.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $154.6 million (Down by -20.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $92.2 million (Down by -59.3%)
Tunisia has highly positive net exports in the international apparel trade. In turn, these cashflows indicate Tunisia’s strong competitive advantages under the clothing and accessories product categories whether or not knit or crocheted.
Tunisia incurred an overall -$2.3 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -65.5% from -$6.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Tunisia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Tunisia’s goods trail Tunisian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1 billion (Down by -63.4% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$831.3 million (Down by -38.4%)
- Cereals: -$830.1 million (Up by 4.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$655.8 million (Down by -12.5%)
- Vehicles: -$481.1 million (Down by -27.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$406.1 million (Down by -13.4%)
- Iron, steel: -$355.4 million (Down by -24.1%)
- Cotton: -$331.8 million (Down by -41.2%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$278.5 million (Up by 98.1%)
- Oil seeds: -$265.9 million (Down by -12.9%)
Tunisia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–particularly refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases.
Tunisian Export Companies
Not one Tunisian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Tunisia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Evertek (telecommunications)
- Groupe Mabrouk (food, beverages)
- Industries Mécaniques Maghrébines (automobiles)
- Vermeg (technology & software)
- Wallyscar (car manufacturer)
In macroeconomic terms, Tunisia’s total exported goods represent 11% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($127.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 11% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 9.9% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Tunisia’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Tunisia’s average unemployment rate was 17.8% as of January 2021, up from 15.1% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Tunisia’s capital city is Tunis, a port located on the Mediterranean Sea.
See also South Africa’s Top 10 Exports, Top African Export Countries and Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on August 9, 2021
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 9, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 9, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 9, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 9, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 9, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tunisia. Accessed on August 9, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 9, 2021