Ireland flag Ireland: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Ireland

Foreign Trade in Figures

Ireland is a very open economy, and therefore very dependent on the international economic situation and vulnerable to external shocks. Trade accounted for 240% of GDP in 2020 (World Bank). Ireland’s main imports are air aircrafts, biological materials, medicine, automatic data-processing machines, oil and petroleum products and automobiles. The country exports mainly biological materials, medicines, industrial raw materials, and medical devices. In 2021, due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of imports of goods and services continued to drop, decreasing by -7.3% compared to 2020. By contrast, exports rebounded strongly, increasing by 14.5% (IMF). The IMF forecasts a more moderate increase of exports in 2022 (+4.1%) and 2023 (+4.5%) and a rebound of imports (+7% in 2022 and +5.5% in 2023).

Ireland's main trading partners are the European Union (the United Kingdom is the main market for imports and the forth largest for exports), the United States, China and Switzerland. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU (Brexit) raises many questions around the future relations between Ireland and its main trade partner. Irish exports are expected to slow down and to suffer from a depreciated sterling pound. The recently introduced higher corporate tax rates may also prompt multinational companies to delocalise.

The Irish trade balance is structurally in surplus. According to the WTO, in 2020 Ireland exported goods with a record total value of USD 179.8 billion, while it imported goods worth USD 98.8 billion. The country exported for 262.3 billion USD of services in 2020, and imported for a value of 295.7 billion USD. According to the Central Statistics Office data, trade balance reached a surplus of EUR 50.5 billion in the third quarter of 2021, an increase of EUR 5.8 billion over the same period in 2020, due to increased computer service exports and goods for processing exports.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 75,38593,198107,669101,10498,750
Exports of Goods (million USD) 128,085137,359164,794169,625179,772
Imports of Services (million USD) 191,939200,597241,804332,092295,688
Exports of Services (million USD) 146,678179,545222,127247,408262,309

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 227.4220.2217.4252.3240.0
Trade Balance (million USD) 117,313123,714129,048133,368n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 46,90975,812110,47949,334n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 19.01.23.341.7-7.4
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.69.611.510.49.5
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 105.999.094.4124.4108.8
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 121.5121.1123.0127.9131.1

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 14.54.14.54.04.0
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -7.37.05.55.55.0

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Ireland is a member of the following international economic organisations: IMF, European Union, ICC, European Economic Area, WTO, Organization of American States (OAS) (observer), OECD, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Ireland click here. International organisation membership of Ireland is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Ireland can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
United States 30.9%
Belgium 11.1%
Germany 10.8%
United Kingdom 9.0%
China 6.2%
See More Countries 32.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
United Kingdom 22.9%
United States 15.1%
France 11.1%
Germany 7.9%
China 7.1%
See More Countries 36.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

184.1 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 22.6%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 12.1%
Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s...Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s] only 11.1%
Nucleic acids and their salts, whether or not...Nucleic acids and their salts, whether or not chemically defined; heterocyclic compounds (excl. with oxygen only or with nitrogen hetero-atom[s] only) 5.2%
Mixtures of odoriferous substances and mixtures,...Mixtures of odoriferous substances and mixtures, incl. alcoholic solutions, based on one or more of these substances, of a kind used as raw materials in industry; other preparations based on odoriferous substances, of a kind used for the manufacture of beverages 4.5%
See More Products 44.5%
98.4 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes;...Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 15.0%
Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s...Heterocyclic compounds with nitrogen hetero-atom[s] only 6.3%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 4.0%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products, whether or not obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 4.0%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 3.9%
See More Products 66.8%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: June 2022