Diamonds, Cars and Frozen Fish - What's Your Country's Biggest Import & Export?
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Diamonds, Cars and Frozen Fish - What's Your Country's Biggest Import & Export?

29 August 2017

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Do you know which countries deal most in knit sweaters, hard liquor - and grapes? A new set of maps has revealed every country's largest import and export and the goods that get exchanged most around the world.

From Israel's massive influx of diamonds to Nepal's unique speciality - exporting flavoured water - every country has a unique set of natural resources and intricate economy. That's why vouchercloud wanted to compare every country's largest import and export, to uncover what products, resources and raw materials are most traded all over the world.

And with everything from cloves (Comoros) to cocoa beans (Ivory Coast) being a nation's biggest export, and recreational boats (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and diamonds (Israel) among a nation's biggest imports, some of the results are pretty interesting.

Every Country's Biggest Import

Every Country's Biggest Import - Map

When it comes to the biggest import for each country, fuel dominates overall. In fact, 97 of 187 countries - over half - import some kind of fuel more than anything else, with crude petroleum (18 countries) and refined petroleum (74 countries) the most common. It does run the world, after all...

Transportation is something of a surprise second place (54 countries), with fully manufactured products showing quite the contrast from some of the raw materials and fuels that many countries import. In fact, cars are imported by 26 countries more than anything else - including the likes of Australia, the UK and the USA - with passenger ships, special purpose ships and even planes, helicopters and spacecraft making up the rest of the total.

Food is the biggest import for many of the world's poorest and most remote countries, with the likes of Somalia, South Sudan and Syria importing food more than anything else. Of the 12 countries importing food and produce more than anything else, three import wheat, two pull in poultry and two more reap in rice.

The map shows a significant divide between the richest and poorest nations around the world, especially across American and Western Europe - most of which deals in transportation and technology more than anything else. Eastern Europe and Asia then switches the focus back to fuels, with the more remote and smaller island nations around the world also understandably needing to import fuel more than anything else.

... and yes, the Central African Republic imports weapons more than anything else.

Certain countries also saw their biggest import dominate the total value of all their trade. For example, the Marshall Islands deal almost exclusively in passenger and cargo ships, making up 84.3% of their total imports - while Switzerland, incredibly stereotypically, sees 27.7% of the total value of its import belong to gold.

Import Category Number of Countries
Fuel 97
Transportation 54
Food and Produce 12
Metal, Mineral and Organic 10
Electronics 6
Medical 4
Textiles 3
Weapons 1

Every Country's Biggest Export

Every Country's Biggest Export

Things are a little more varied when it comes to each country's biggest export - every country's unique offering when it comes to natural resources, trades and skills is shown off in earnest here. Fuel is still the most common export overall, though only 53 of 187 countries export some kind of fuel more than anything else. Crude petroleum (24 countries) and refined petroleum (18 countries) split the difference here, though petroleum gas (11 countries) is also high on the list.

Metal, mineral and organic exports are in 2nd place, with 50 countries exporting raw materials above anything else. Gold is the biggest export among them, making up 16 of the 51 countries' greatest offering to the world. Indonesia and North Korea, on the other hand, export coal briquettes more than anything else - while Lebanon provides jewellery, Niger deals in radioactive chemicals, and Gambia and the Solomon Islands go back to basics with a largest export of rough wood.

Food is the biggest export for many countries - 35 of the 187 included - though it covers most of the smaller countries and island nations. This might explain why the foods also make for some of the more eclectic exports - concentrated milk (New Zealand), hard liquor (Barbados), grapes (Afghanistan), fish fillets (Maldives) and cloves (Comoros) are among the more unique items that make for a country's biggest export around the world.

The groupings of categories are again very interesting. Most of Western Europe deals in manufactured products across the transportation category, while the world's poorer nations are naturally reliant on natural resources - fuels, metals, minerals and organics and occasionally food and produce, and the grouping across Africa is a very interesting example.

Also, Cambodia exports knit sweaters more than anything else, which is fantastic.

One export can dominate an entire country's total trade far more often than an import can. Iraq, Timor-Leste and Angola all see crude petroleum as more than 90% of the value of their total exports, while Kiribati sees 90.4% of its total exports belong to... non-fillet frozen fish.

Burkina Faso deals almost exclusively in gold (72.6%), Tuvalu has a distinct speciality for tug boats (79.6%), while Guinea-Bissau seems to be the global specialist in coconuts, brazil nuts and cashews (84.2%).

Export Category Number of Countries
Fuel 53
Metal, Mineral and Organic 50
Food and Produce 35
Transportation 24
Electronics 14
Textiles 6
Medical 5

Imports and Exports - The Data

Obviously it's important to put this data in context. China is responsible for 15% of total global exports - $23.7T - while the likes of Syria are responsible for just 0.0039% - $613m. Showing each country's single largest import and export is an insight into the micro-economies of each country and how they vary compared to the rest of the world.

All data was collected from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, with collects and visualises trade data. Using the 2015 dataset, we collected each country's biggest import and export - the item that had the biggest value as a percentage of total import and export trade with the rest of the world.

All imports and exports were grouped into one of eight categories based on the kind of product or material - fuel, food and produce, transportation, electronics, metal, mineral and organic, textiles, medical and weapons.

For context, the top 10 imports/exports worldwide are:

Export Category %
Crude Petroleum Fuel 4.7%
Cars Transportation 4.3%
Refined Petroleum Fuel 3.6%
Integrated Circuits Electronics 3%
Computers Electronics 2.3%
Vehicle Parts Transportation 2.2%
Packaged Medicaments Medical 2.2%
Gold Metal, Mineral and Organic 2%
Petroleum Gas Fuel 1.8%
Broadcasting Equipment Electronics 1.7%

There are also 9 countries for which data isn't available: Botswana, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Namibia, Swaziland, Taiwan and Vatican City.

You can find our full data set here.

To help keep your finances in order for less, check out our finance vouchers to help you save on those all important fiscal products.

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