UAE’s 6 biggest exported goods represent over three-quarters (76.7%) of the Middle Eastern nation’s overall revenue stream from international sales in 2020. Those top export products are crude oil (32.7% of total), gold (18%), processed petroleum oils (12.2%), diamonds (4.3%), petroleum gases (4%), aluminum (3%) and jewelry (2.3%).
The latest available country-specific prorated data shows that 49.4% of products exported from UAE were bought by importers in: Saudi Arabia (9.7% of the global total), India (5.7%), Iraq (5%), Oman (4.6%), Iran (4.6%), Switzerland (4.2%), Kuwait (3.7%), Hong Kong (2.8%), United States (2.8%), China (2.3%), Belgium (2%) and Bahrain (2%).
Given the UAE’s population of 9.7 million people, its total $316.9 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $32,700 for every resident in the sovereign absolute monarchy.
UAE’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in UAE global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the UAE.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$72.5 billion (49.6% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $37 billion (25.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $5.3 billion (3.6%)
- Aluminum: $5.3 billion (3.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $2.4 billion (1.7%)
- Iron, steel: $2 billion (1.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $2 billion (1.4%)
- Copper: $1.8 billion (1.3%)
- Ships, boats: $1.5 billion (1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $1.4 billion (1%)
UAE’s top 10 exports accounted for 89.7% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ships and boats was the lone gainer among the top 10 export categories, up by 310.8% from 2019 to 2020.
The leading decliners among UAE’s top 10 export categories were electrical machinery and equipment (down -92%), machinery including computers (down -89.3%) and items made from iron or steel (down -62.8%).
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$65.4 billion (Down by -15.6% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $13.7 billion (Reversing a -$10.7 billion deficit)
- Aluminum: $4.3 billion (Down by -1.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.2 billion (Down by -8.7%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $992.3 million (Up by 17.5%)
- Copper: $637 million (Reversing a -$327.1 million deficit)
- Fertilizers: $469.6 million (Reversing a -$25.9 million deficit)
- Ships, boats: $46.3 million (Reversing a -$63.8 million deficit)
- Lead: $34.8 million (Reversing a -$56.8 million deficit)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $24.5 million (Reversing a -$3.9 million deficit)
The UAE has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate UAE’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Overall, the UAE racked up a -$13.2 billion product trade deficit for 2020 reversing a $48 billion surplus one year earlier.
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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$11 billion (Down by -26.9% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: -$8.3 billion (Up by 0.5%)
- Vehicles: -$7.6 billion (Down by -21.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$6.9 billion (Down by -69.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$3.3 billion (Up by 4.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$2.8 billion (Down by -47.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$2.7 billion (Down by -13.3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$2.2 billion (Up by 34%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$2 billion (Down by -19.8%)
- Meat: -$1.6 billion (Down by -0.6%)
UAE has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.
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 21.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($683.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 21.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 24% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing 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 5% for 2020, up from 2.64% one year earlier per Trading Economics.
The UAE’s capital city is Abu Dhabi.
See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Crude Oil Exports by Country and Petroleum Gas Exports by Country
FlagPictures.org, Flag of UAE. Accessed on July 1, 2021
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Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 1, 2021
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