Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, the total Gross Domestic Product for Middle Eastern countries amounted to an estimated $9.118 trillion in 2016, with exports accounting for roughly 8.9 percent of the region’s total economic output. But what are the major exports coming out of the region?
10. Gems and precious metals
Given the area’s rich stores of oil and other fossil fuels, it is perhaps no surprise that the Middle East also exports a significant amount of gems, industrial metals and other precious metals that are used for a variety of purposes and industries. For example, the Dubai Diamond Exchange, which is a leading global diamond trade centre, has seen its trade jump exponentially. In 2010 alone, US$14.6 billion worth of polished diamonds were exported.
9. Electrical machinery and equipment
According to figures from 2016, the largest economy in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, exported electrical machinery and equipment totalling more than US$1 billion.
The Middle East region, as a whole, exports about US$1.5 billion worth of cars, trucks and other vehicles. Of the top 10 countries, Saudi Arabia leads the Middle East in a number of vehicles exported with $745.5 million; Kuwait following closely in second place with exports totalling $557.7 million. The United Arab Emirates trails a distant third with $96.3 million.
7. Food products
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq are among the top Middle Eastern exporters of food products such as dairy, eggs and honey. According to figures by the World Bank, these three countries exported US$599,706, $563,860 and $367,901, respectively, in 2015. The entire region exported nearly $4 million worth of food products, according to figures for that year.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia exported US$1.6 billion worth of machinery, including computers. As the largest economy in the Middle East, this trend is indicative of the region’s efforts as it attempts to diversify its exports and expand the opportunities available to its workers. In addition to boosting its economy, this strategy is aimed at reducing the immigration of top professionals in the field.
The Middle East exported US$12.9 billion of aluminium last year, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar responsible for $11.5 billion of that figure. 2017 marks the second highest growth in the industry when measured by year-on-year figures. The region is expected to continue in its role as a leader in the production of aluminium by constantly implementing technologies in the metal’s refinement, processing and production.
4. Ships and boats
Experts estimate that the Middle East is accountable for 20 percent of the world’s workboat market. More than 70 percent of the industry’s very large crude oil carriers (VLCOC) originate from this area. However, the Middle East also produces and repairs ships and boats such as fire, police, rescue, patrol and oil spill boats, barges, dredgers and floating cranes.
3. Organic chemicals
Representing 5.7 percent of the global shipments of organic chemicals, the Middle East exports in this category amounted to US$31.9 billion. Anhydrous ammonia topped the region’s list of organic chemical exports at $1.3 billion. At a distant second, third and fourth were exports of phosphoric acid ($372.3 million), distilled/conductivity water ($305.6 million) and carbon ($234.9 million). The United Arab Emirates leads the Middle East in exporting organic chemicals such as sulfuric acid with nearly $546 million of sales in 2015.
Exporting more than US$370 million worth of plastics signals the Middle East’s concerted push to become a more dominant force in the exportation of this industry. Recognizing that the region is exposed to a certain amount of economic instability due to its dependence in the oil sector as the primary source of its exports, the Middle East has sought to be more aggressive with its efforts to diversify. By attempting to capture a larger portion of the already highly-profitable downstream petrochemicals industry via plastics, the region is expected to enhance its position. Demand for high-value plastics such as ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), acrylonitrile butadiene (ABS) and polycarbonate is expected to grow.
1. Mineral fuels
Both the production and the processing of mineral fuels, including crude oil and natural gas, are a major foundation for the economies of most of the 15 countries that comprise the Middle East, including Saudi Arabi, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The region is among the largest sources of mineral fuel exports with the area accounting for about 18 percent of the amount imported by the United States, for example. Of those Middle Eastern countries that exported mineral fuels to the United States, Saudi Arabia was the country’s largest source. The Middle East was responsible for more than 40 percent of the world’s crude oil exports with a value of US$325 billion in 2015.