Located on the Arabian Peninsula’s northeast coast, the State of Qatar borders with Saudi Arabia while sharing sea borders on the Persian Gulf with the United Arab Emirates and Iran. Based on metrics from RichestCountryReports.com, Qatar is the world’s richest country in terms of GDP per capita.
Qatar shipped an estimated US$69.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -10.4% decline since 2015 and a -17.1% drop from 2018 to 2019.
From a continental perspective and based on 2018 data, 86% of Qatar’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 9.6% were sold to importers in Europe. Qatar shipped another 1.7% worth of goods to Africa. Tinier percentages went to North America (1.4%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.7%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.6%).
Given Qatar’s population of 284 million people, its total $69.8 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $25,400 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Qatari global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Qatar.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$60.4 billion (86.5% of total exports)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.7 billion (2.5%)
- Fertilizers: $1.5 billion (2.1%)
- Aluminum: $1.4 billion (1.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.1 billion (1.6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $750.7 million (1.1%)
- Iron, steel: $701.9 million (1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $481.0 million (0.7%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $254.1 million (0.4%)
- Copper: $138.3 million (0.2%)
Qatar’s top 10 exports accounted for 98% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 494.9% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement via a 360.8% gain. Qatar’s shipments of copper posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 89.1%.
The leading decliner among Qatar’s top 10 export categories was plastics including articles made from plastic, due to a -41.2% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, petroleum gases were Qatar’s most valuable exported product worth 47.6% of the country’s total. In second place was crude oil (26.2%) trailed by refined petroleum oils (12.6%), ethylene polymers (2.5%), nitrogenous fertilizers (2.1%), unwrought aluminum (1.8%), hydrogen and rare gases (0.8%) then jewelry (0.7%).
Overall Qatar posted an estimated $38.5 billion trade surplus during 2019, down by -26.8% from $52.6 billion one year earlier.
The following types of Qatari product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$59.7 billion (Down by -17.2% since 2018)
- Fertilizers: $1.5 billion (Down by -1.2%)
- Aluminum: $1.2 billion (Up by 2.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.2 billion (Down by -44%)
- Organic chemicals: $1 billion (Up by 9.3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $561.3 million (Up by 8.4%)
- Iron, steel: $435.7 million (Reversing a -$52.7 million deficit)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $213.2 million (Reversing a -$327.3 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $4.1 million (Reversing a -$129,000 deficit)
- Lead: $3.8 million (Reversing a -$102,000 deficit)
Qatar has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related goods notably petroleum gases and both crude and refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Qatar’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Below are exports from Qatar that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Qatar’s goods trail Qatari importer spending on foreign products.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: US-$6.2 billion (Up by 153% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$4.4 billion (Down by -9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.7 billion (Up by 27.7%)
- Vehicles: -$2 billion (Up by 30.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$1.6 billion (Up by 92.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.4 billion (Up by 29.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$740.7 million (Down by -13.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$703.3 million (Up by 19.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$476 million (Down by -28.8%)
- Arms, ammunition: -$411.5 million (Down by -47.4%)
Qatar has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products under the aircraft and spacecraft category.
Eight Qatari corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 albeit many of these are in the financial services. Below are samples from the Forbes listing.
- Qatar National Bank (regional bank)
- Ooredoo Telecom (telecommunications services)
- Industries Qatar (specialized chemicals)
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Qatar. Selected examples are shown below.
- Qatar National Cement Company (cement manufacturing)
- Qatar Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Qatar Steel (steel, other basic materials)
- Qatargas (natural gas)
- RasGas (natural gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Qatar’s total exported goods represent 19.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($358.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 19.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 23.3% for 2018. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Qatar’s total economic performance albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Qatar’s average unemployment rate was 0.1% for 2019 down from 0.2% in 2018 according to Trading Economics.
Qatar’s capital city is Doha.
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 26, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 26, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 26, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Qatar. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Qatar. Accessed on April 26, 2020