That dollar amount reflects a -30.6% drop from $313.5 billion in 2017 and -35.1% decline from $335.3 billion during 2020.
The UAE’s 6 biggest exported goods accounted for almost four-fifths (78.7%) of the Middle Eastern nation’s overall revenue stream from international sales in 2021. The top 6 exported products are crude oil (33.1% of total), processed petroleum oils (17.3%), gold (13.2%), unmounted diamonds (5.6%), petroleum gases (4.6%) and raw aluminum (3.1%).
UAE Most Valuable Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data prorated from 2020 shows that 52.5% of products exported from the UAE were bought by importers in: Saudi Arabia (9.7% of the global total), Iraq (5.9%), India (5.1%), Switzerland (4.4%), Oman (4.3%), mainland China (3.6%), Hong Kong (3.5%), Kuwait (3.1%), Turkey (2.6%), Italy (2.42%), United States of America (2.4%), Iran (2%), Egypt (1.7%) and Pakistan (1.6%).
From a continental perspective, 68.5% of UAE exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 15.5% were sold to European importers. The UAE shipped another 11.7% worth of goods to Africa.
Smaller percentages went to North America (3.5%), Oceania (0.43%) led by Australia and New Zealand, then Latin America (0.4%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given the UAE’s population of 9.6 million people, its total $217.7 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $22,800 for every resident in the sovereign absolute monarchy. That dollar metric falls far below the average $32,700 in exports per capita in 2020.
United Arab Emirates’ Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in UAE global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the UAE.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$121.3 billion (55.7% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $46.1 billion (21.2%)
- Aluminum: $7.9 billion (3.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $7.3 billion (3.3%)
- Iron, steel: $3.4 billion (1.6%)
- Machinery including computers: $3 billion (1.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $3 billion (1.4%)
- Copper: $2.6 billion (1.2%)
- Organic chemicals: $2.4 billion (1.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $2.1 billion (1%)
The UAE’s top 10 exported product categories accounted for 91.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Organic chemicals represents the fastest growere among the top 10 export categories, up by 199.3% since 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement which was up by 103.9%.
The UAE’s shipments of aluminum posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 78.4%.
The leading decliner among UAE’s top 10 export categories was electrical machinery and equipment which fell -89.5% year over year.
Products Generating the UAE’s Biggest Trade Surpluses
The UAE racked up an overall $20.9 billion product trade surplus for 2021 down by -76.4% from the $88.3 billion surplus one year earlier in 2020.
The following types of UAE 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$110.9 billion (Down by -15.3% since 2020)
- Gems, precious metals: $14.6 billion (Down by -298.8%)
- Aluminum: $6.7 billion (Up by 96.2%)
- Copper: $2 billion (Reversing a -$675.8 million deficit)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $1.8 billion (Up by 159.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.5 billion (Down by -45.8%)
- Fertilizers: $886.5 million (Reversing a -$39.6 million deficit)
- Lead: $59.2 million (Reversing a -$26.4 million deficit)
The UAE has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils–both crude and refined oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate UAE’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Products Causing the UAE’s Worst Trade Deficits
Below are exports from the UAE that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country UAE’s goods trail UAE importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$25.8 billion (Up by 458.7% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$19.6 billion (Up by 85.7%)
- Vehicles: -$11.9 billion (Up by 129.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$5 billion (Up by 325.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$4 billion (Up by 38.9%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$3.2 billion (Up by 452%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$3.1 billion (Up by 67.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$2.7 billion (Up by 235.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$2.6 billion (Up by 130.2%)
- Meat: -$1.9 billion (Up by 30.5%)
UAE has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery-related categories.
Major Companies Headquartered in the UAE
Ten UAE business entities rank among Forbes Global 2000. The world-class UAE companies are listed in descending order starting with those with the highest dollar value in annual revenues.
- First Abu Dhabi Bank (banking services)
- Etisalat (telecom services, equipment)
- Emirates NBD (regional bank)
- Emaar Properties (real estate)
- DP World (marine terminal operations)
- Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (regional bank)
- Dubai Islamic Bank (regional bank)
- Mashreq Bank (regional bank)
- Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (regional bank)
- Union National Bank (regional bank)
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies located in the UAE. Selected examples from the energy sector are shown below, this time listed in alphabetical order.
- ADNOC Gas Processing (state-owned natural gas)
- Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (state-owned holding company)
- Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (state-owned petroleum)
- Dana Gas (privately-owned natural gas)
In macroeconomic terms, the United Arab Emirates exported goods worth 31% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($703.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 31% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 21.4% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for UAE’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. UAE’s average unemployment rate was 4% for 2021, down from 5% one year earlier per Trading Economics.
The UAE’s capital city is Abu Dhabi.
See also Gold Exports by Country Plus Average Prices, Coal Exports by Country, Crude Oil Exports by Country and Petroleum Gas Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Middle East: United Arab Emirates. Accessed on June 3, 2022
FlagPictures.org, Flag of UAE. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, United Arab Emirates’ Biggest Companies. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on June 3, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 3, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of UAE. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 3, 2022
Wikipedia, United Arab Emirates. Accessed on June 3, 2022
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Abu Dhabi, UAE. Accessed on June 3, 2022