Kuwait flag Kuwait: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Kuwait

Foreign Trade in Figures

Kuwait is highly dependent on foreign trade, which represented 98% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). As the fourth-largest OPEC oil producer, Kuwait's export earnings mainly come from mineral fuels, oils, and distillation products, which account for over 95% of total exports and almost 50% of the GDP. On the other hand, the country relies particularly on imports of food products, consumer goods, and semi-finished products. Imports have increased rapidly in recent years due to the country's undertaking of large projects and high private consumption demand. For 2022, imports were led by motor cars, radio-telephony transmission tools, gold, medicaments, and iron or steel tubes (data Comtrade).

Kuwait exports to a wide number of countries, with the main ones being the United Arab Emirates, India, Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan. Kuwait's largest suppliers are China (18.8%), the UAE (11.9%), the United States (8.6%), India (5.5%), and Saudi Arabia (5.3% - data Comtrade). Kuwait permits duty-free entry of GCC goods that adhere to origin criteria. To qualify for preferential duty status, each product must demonstrate that at least 40% of its value added originates from a GCC member country, with the producing firm's capital ownership by GCC citizens reaching 51%. In April 2018, Kuwait endorsed the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement, aimed at streamlining customs and border procedures, enhancing transparency and information accessibility, and reducing trade expenses.

The country's exports largely depend on its oil output and global oil prices, and Kuwait has been recording trade surpluses since 1993. In 2022, the export of goods increased to a record-high USD 101.2 billion (+60.4% y-o-y) amid high hydrocarbon prices, while imports stood at USD 32.3 billion (+1.4%). Kuwait has a structurally positive trade balance; however, the country is a net importer of services, with USD 10.6 billion in exports against USD 26.5 billion in imports in 2022.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 35,86433,57427,73831,88932,356
Exports of Goods (million USD) 71,93864,48340,11663,128101,270
Imports of Services (million USD) 36,83530,21819,17921,08827,545
Exports of Services (million USD) 8,1198,0367,1688,70610,609

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 103.198.2n/an/an/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 45,71135,36115,41240,55071,950
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 16,99413,1803,40128,16755,014
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.5-10.4n/an/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -0.4-10.1n/an/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 45.644.9n/an/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 57.553.3n/an/an/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.00.00.00.00.0
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.00.00.00.00.0

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Kuwait is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The country is also part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
United Arab Emirates 1.0%
India 0.9%
Saudi Arabia 0.8%
China 0.5%
Pakistan 0.5%
See More Countries 96.3%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
China 18.8%
United Arab Emirates 11.9%
United States 8.6%
India 5.5%
Saudi Arabia 5.3%
See More Countries 50.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

325.8 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 68.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 22.4%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.7%
Sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives of...Sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives of hydrocarbons, whether or not halogenated 1.0%
Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated,...Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 0.9%
See More Products 3.7%
117.3 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 10.1%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 4.1%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.1%
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) 3.0%
Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of...Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of iron or steel (excl. products of cast iron) 2.0%
See More Products 77.7%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. 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, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: May 2024