Ranked: The World’s Largest Exporters

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There are hundreds of countries in the world, but only a handful of these countries actually produce more than they consume. These are known as exporters. An exporting country can be said to be in a trade surplus. A trade surplus generally means the exporting country benefits because it has an inflow of foreign capital that can be invested in either domestic projects or retained in foreign exchange reserves.

On the other hand, a country that is importing more than it exports (or has a trade deficit) is by definition having an outflow of capital. This may cause its hard currency reserves to decline and thus have less money to spend on domestic projects.

Here is the list of the top 10 largest exporter countries in the world:

Dark Blue Red Export Import Service

1. China

China has been the world’s largest exporter of goods since 2009. Official estimates suggest Chinese exports amounted to $2.6 trillion in 2020. [1]

The United States and China are the largest trading countries in the world. In fact, China-US trade accounts for nearly a third of total global trade. The value of goods traded between the two nations in 2016 was about $648 billion, with US exports amounting to $115 billion and imports from China totaling $533 billion.

While China leads in overall exports, it doesn’t lead every category. Saudi Arabia is the top oil exporter by a wide margin, shipping $1.5 trillion worth of crude oil around the world each year, which exceeds 10 million barrels per day (b/d). The United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Iraq are also major oil exporters to countries around the globe. [2]

2. United States

The United States is the second-largest exporter in the world. In fact, the country has maintained its position as one of the top five exporters since 1981.

The United States exported goods valued at $2.13 trillion in 2020. [3]

Research by Export Genius, a leading export-import data provider, shows that the US imported US$ 2.25 trillion worth of merchandise and services in 2016, making it one of the largest importers too. Around 70% of this was for merchandise and 30% for services. [4]

The United States enjoys a positive trade balance with more than 70 countries around the world. The top imports of the United States are electronics, machinery, and vehicles. Additionally, the United States exports aircraft, vehicles, and industrial machines to more than 200 countries around the world.

3. Germany

Germany has been leading in export for many years. It is also the largest economy in Europe, with a GDP of 3.3 trillion euros in 2020. [5]

Germany’s main exports include machinery, electronic products, vehicles, and chemical goods. Their main import commodities include data processing equipment, crude oil, electronics, textiles and clothing, foodstuffs, and beverages.

Germany is a leader in many different types of products, including automobiles, automotive parts, and chemicals. The automobile industry is important not only to Germany but also to other countries in Europe, such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic, both of which produce automotive parts for German brands like Audi and BMW.

Germany’s top three exports are cars, vehicle parts, and packaged medicaments. In 2020, Germany exported roughly $15.1 billion worth of autos to the United States, making it by far this country’s largest source of imported vehicles. [6]

The US is Germany’s biggest export market while China is its most important source of imports.

4. Netherlands

The Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of food and flowers. The Dutch agricultural industry produces nearly half of all exported tomatoes and a third of all exported onions. As a result, the Netherlands has become one of the world’s largest producers of processed foods. [7]

The Netherlands is second in natural gas exports in Europe, third in diamond exports, and fourth in cheese and meat exports. It also has a thriving electronics export industry. [8]

Agriculture has been a key economic driver for the country since its early days. The country is well known as an exporter of flowers, especially tulips and other bulbs. The Dutch agricultural sector has undergone dramatic changes in recent decades. Agricultural land has shrunk by 14% over the last 10 years as farmers voluntarily sold their land for housing development, recreation, or protection of the environment. The number of farms in the Netherlands declined by 36% between 2005 and 2015, while farm output increased by 21%. [9]

The European country’s exports to neighboring countries such as Germany, Belgium, and France are significant. In 2017, these three countries were the Netherlands’ top trading partners and accounted for one-third of its exports. [10]

5. Japan

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, and its manufacturing sector is a key component of that strength. The country is among the largest exporters of automobiles and transportation equipment, industrial machinery, electrical machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and precision instruments.

Japan’s top export destinations are China (18 percent), the United States (13 percent), and South Korea (4 percent). Other important markets for goods from Japan include Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The top 3 exports of Japan in 2020 were: cars ($83.1B), Integrated Circuits ($31.3B), vehicle parts ($28B). [11]

6. Hong Kong

Hong Kong exported an estimated worth of 612 million dollars around the globe in 2020. [12]

Given Hong Kong’s population of 7.48 million people, its total of 3.93 trillion 2020 exports translates to roughly 525,401 Hong Kong dollars for every resident in that country.

Hong Kong shipped US$420.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017, up by 21% since 2013 but down by -0.9% from 2016 to 2017, led by the following product groups:

  • Electrical machinery, equipment: US$110 billion (26% of total exports)
  • Machinery including computers: $54 billion (13%)
  • Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $39 billion (9%)
  • Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $35 billion (8%)
  • Pepper; vans, trucks: $29 billion (7%)

7. South Korea

South Korea is the world’s 7th largest exporter. In 2017, South Korea exported $571B and imported $436B, resulting in a positive trade balance of $135B. In 2017 the GDP of South Korea was $1.6T, and its GDP per capita was $38.2k. [13]

The top 3 exports of South Korea in 2020 are Electrical machinery and equipment (US$200.8 billion), Machinery including computers ($76 billion), and vehicles ($67 billion). [14]

The top export destinations of South Korea are China ($131B), the United States ($75B), Vietnam ($48B), Hong Kong ($30.9B), and Japan ($25.1B). [15]

8. Italy

Italy is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone. It is the 8th largest export economy in the world and the 34th most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). In 2020, Italy exported $481B and imported $422.9B, resulting in a negative trade balance of -$59B. In 2020 the GDP of Italy was $1.88T, and its GDP per capita was $31.6k. [16]

The top 3 exports of Italy in 2020 were machinery, including computers ($91.1B), and vehicles ($38.3B), Pharmaceuticals ($21.5B).

The top export destinations of Italy in 2017 were Germany ($28.9B), France ($27.2B), Switzerland ($17B), Spain ($16.6B), and the United States ($12.9B). [17]

9. France

France is the world’s seventh-largest economy and has a strategic position as a bridge between Europe and North America. France has been described as the most business-friendly country in Europe. 

Exports of France were approximately 488 billion US dollars in 2020 and are continually increasing. [18]

France’s exports reached $590.7 billion in 2015, with an annual growth rate of -4.6% over 2014. 

France’s principal export partners are Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom (UK). Its main export commodities are machinery, transportation equipment, aircraft, and plastics.

10. Belgium

Belgium is a relatively small, densely populated country with an open, market-oriented economy, a wealth of natural resources, and excellent transport facilities. One of the founding members of the European Community (the EU predecessor), Belgium advocates giving the EU more power to integrate European economies. 75% of its trade is with other EU countries. Belgium adopted the euro along with other Eurozone economies in 1999.

Belgium’s GDP per capita is equivalent to that of the big western European economies, but its unemployment rate has persistently exceeded the Eurozone average. Public debt has increased steadily since 2000, although it remains nearly 3 percentage points below the Eurozone average; as in most advanced economies, this increase was primarily due to government efforts to stimulate the economy during the recent recession and financial crisis. 

Belgium’s top three exports in 2020 were pharmaceuticals (US$61.3B), vehicles ($50.2B), and machinery, including computers ($29.6B). [19]

Conclusion

The United States and China are the most important and largest exporters in the world. The United States is the largest economy, and its advantages can be noted in the quantity of its exported goods. China is also one of the largest economies in the world, but its government plays an active role in determining how many exports are sent overseas.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/263661/export-of-goods-from-china/
  2. https://www.worldstopexports.com/worlds-top-oil-exports-country/
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/219691/value-of-international-us-exports-of-goods-and-services-since-2000/  
  4. https://www.exportgenius.in/blog/what-is-the-major-imports-of-the-united-states-top-us-import-products-136.php
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/685925/gdp-of-european-countries
  6. https://oec.world/en/profile/bilateral-product/cars/reporter/deu
  7. https://blog.bizvibe.com/blog/top-flower-producing-countries
  8. https://www.eia.gov/international/analysis/country/NLD
  9. https://knoema.com/atlas/Netherlands/Agricultural-land-as-a-share-of-land-area
  10. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/NLD/Year/2017/TradeFlow/EXPIMP/Partner/by-country 
  11. https://oec.world/en/profile/country/jpn
  12. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/HKG/hong-kong/exports
  13. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=KR
  14. https://www.worldstopexports.com/south-koreas-top-10-exports/
  15. https://oec.world/en/profile/country/kor
  16. https://oec.world/en/profile/country/ita
  17. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/ITA/Year/2017/TradeFlow/EXPIMP/Partner/by-country
  18. https://www.statista.com/statistics/263651/export-of-goods-from-france/
  19. https://www.worldstopexports.com/belgiums-top-exports/
  20. https://www.statista.com/statistics/328792/export-of-goods-from-belgium
  21. https://www.statista.com/statistics/263651/export-of-goods-from-france
  22. https://www.statista.com/statistics/263653/export-of-goods-from-italy

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