Mauritania flag Mauritania: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Mauritania

Foreign Trade in Figures

Mauritania is very open to international trade, which represents around 90.7% of the GDP (World Bank, 2020 – latest data available). Iron (34.5%) and copper ore (7.6%), fishing products, gold, inedible flours, meals, and pellets were the main exports of Mauritania in 2020. The country mainly imported petroleum oils, wheat and meslin, raw sugar soya-bean oils (Comtrade).

In the same year, China (33.9%), Switzerland (17.1%), Canada (10%), Spain (6.6%), and Italy (4.6%) were the main export destinations, whereas imports came chiefly from Spain (14.6%), the UAE (14.2%), France (8.4%), China (8.2%), and Belgium (6.8%). Overall, Europe remained the biggest trading partner of Mauritania. While regional trade remains essentially informal and unrecorded, there has recently been a surge in fish exports to some West African countries, especially Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria (WTO). The country recently signed a free-trade agreement with ECOWAS and is a signatory of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

After a fall in exports of iron and other minerals in 2011, the country's trade balance has remained deep in negative numbers due to the increased level of imports. In 2020, Mauritania's exports reached USD 2.8 billion (up by almost 25% year-on-year), whereas imports stood at USD 2.7 billion, marking a 22% decrease vis-à-vis one year earlier. As per services, Mauritania’s exports are historically really low (at USD 110 million in 2020), the same as for imports (USD 789 million). According to the World Bank’s estimates, the total external trade balance for goods and services was negative by 11.5% of GDP in 2020 (from 13.6% one year earlier).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,8252,0943,1833,5202,745
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,2991,7222,0522,2662,830
Imports of Services (million USD) 670698640741789
Exports of Services (million USD) 181133113124110

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 79.392.096.693.090.7
Trade Balance (million USD) -499-372-706-570n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -835-944-1,222-1,158n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -5.51.90.50.60.3
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.41.6-4.06.11.0
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 47.452.957.353.049.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 31.939.139.340.041.1

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) 1.16.34.3-5.11.3
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 4.32.04.83.21.9

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Since the 1990s, Mauritania has been implementing economic reforms trying to liberalize its economy, increase the competivity of its exports and reinforce its legislative framework. The prices were liberalized, barriers to trading were lifted, fiscal policy and custom duty procedures were reformed.

Mauritania is a member of the WTO (original member). It grants most-favored-nation treatment to the group of its commercial partners and has consolidated 41% of its tariff lines, that is to say the rates applied cannot be increased unless Mauritania compensates the affected partners. On the regional level, Mauritania is a part of the AMU (Arab Maghreb Union), the aim of which, to achieve free movement of persons, services, merchandise and capital, is for the moment only a project. Mauritania has also concluded bilateral trade agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, but the level of preference tariffs is yet to be established. Notably towards the European Union and the United States Mauritania benefits from preferential regime as part of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
China 33.9%
Switzerland 17.1%
Canada 10.0%
Spain 6.6%
Italy 4.6%
See More Countries 27.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
Spain 14.6%
United Arab Emirates 14.2%
France 8.4%
China 8.2%
Belgium 6.8%
See More Countries 47.8%

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

 
 

Main Products

2.8 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 34.5%
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 26.1%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 11.3%
Molluscs, fit for human consumption, whether in...Molluscs, fit for human consumption, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, incl. aquatic invertebrates (other than crustaceans and molluscs); flours, meals and pellets of aquatic invertebrates other than crustaceans, fit for human consumption 9.9%
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 7.6%
See More Products 10.6%
2.7 bn USD of products imported in 2020
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 27.6%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 6.4%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 6.0%
Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 5.4%
Parts suitable for use solely or principally with...Parts suitable for use solely or principally with the machinery of heading 8425 to 8430, n.e.s. 4.6%
See More Products 50.1%

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

 
 

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Latest Update: June 2022