An examination of the latest available 2017 data shows that 80% of products exported from Tunisia were bought by importers in: France (30.6% of the global total), Italy (16.5%), Germany (11.6%), Spain (3.8%), Algeria (3.3%), Libya (2.8%), United Kingdom (2.3%), United States (2.2%), Switzerland (2.2%), Netherlands (1.8%), Belgium (1.7%) and Morocco (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 76.8% of Tunisia’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 10.3% were sold to fellow African importers. Tunisia shipped another 5.3% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to North America (2.6%), Latin America (0.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.1%) led Australia and New Zealand.
Given Tunisia’s population of 11.5 million people, its total $15.5 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $1,300 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 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tunisia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$4.3 billion (29% of total exports)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.3 billion (15.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $844.4 million (5.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $802.1 million (5.4%)
- Footwear: $650.6 million (4.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $542.7 million (3.7%)
- Vehicles: $539.6 million (3.6%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $534 million (3.6%)
- Machinery including computers: $503.6 million (3.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $416.4 million (2.8%)
By value, Tunisia’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (77.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Optical, technical or medical apparatus was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 3.7% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was plastics including articles made from plastic via a 2.8% gain. Tunisia’s shipments of electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 0.3%.
The leading decliner among Tunisia’s top 10 export categories was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes thanks to a -37% drop 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 at 13.9% of the country’s total. In second place were unknit and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers (6.5%) trailed by crude petroleum oil (4.9%), unknit and non-crocheted women’s clothing (3.9%), olive oil (3.4%), automobile parts or accessories (3.3%), lower-voltage switches and fuses (2.8%), phone system devices including smartphones (also 2.8%), leather footwear (2.4%) then aircraft parts (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$2.2 billion (Down by -3.8% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.4 billion (Up by 13.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $736.1 million (Down by -13.4%)
- Footwear: $493.2 million (Down by -4.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $409 million (Down by -39.8%)
- Fruits, nuts: $250.1 million (Down by -19.5%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $124.2 million (Down by -9.6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $117.5 million (Down by -35.1%)
- Fertilizers: $113.5 million (Up by 11.2%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $96.5 million (Up by 11.1%)
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.
Overall Tunisia incurred a -$2.9 billion trade deficit for 2019, down by -40.7% from -$4.9 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$1.4 billion (Down by -30.8% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.1 billion (Down by -22.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$733 million (Down by -15.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$437.4 million (Down by -2.7%)
- Vehicles: -$425.2 million (Down by -35.2%)
- Iron, steel: -$395.9 million (Down by -40.7%)
- Cereals: -$373 million (Down by -46.3%)
- Cotton: -$353.8 million (Down by -20%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$306 million (Down by -5.7%)
- Copper: -$301.3 million (Up by 4.6%)
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 9.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($149.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 9.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 10.7% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing 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 unemployment rate was 14.9% as of December 2019 down from 15.5% 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 Capital Facts for Tunis, Tunisia
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 18, 2020
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 18, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 18, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 18, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 18, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 18, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tunisia. Accessed on June 18, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 18, 2020