Iran flag Iran: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Iran

Foreign Trade in Figures

Iran is relatively open to foreign trade, which accounts for around 52% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The country has an observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2005 and is not a member of any regional trade blocs. Exports are spearheaded by crude oil and petroleum products (reaching a five-year high in 2023), followed by ethylene polymers and acyclic alcohols. On the other hand, imports are led by telephones (8.4%), maize or corn (6.4%), wheat and meslin (4.7%), soya beans, whether or not broken (2.7%), sunflower-seed, and safflower or cotton-seed oil (2.6% - data Comtrade).

In 2022, Iran’s main export partners were China (29.8%), Iraq (13.3%), Türkiye (9.0%), the United Arab Emirates (7.3%), and Afghanistan (2.7%), whereas imports came chiefly from the United Arab Emirates (31.2%), China (24.1%), Türkiye (10.0%), Germany (3.6%), and Russia (3.1% - data Comtrade). The government is aiming to diversify the country's exports, given that diversification of non-oil exports would lower the economy’s vulnerability.

The country generally has a positive trade balance thanks to oil exports; however, its scope is largely dependent on global oil prices. According to figures from WTO, in 2022, Iran exported USD 77.2 billion worth of goods against USD 55.4 billion in imports (+7.7% and +13.2% y-o-y, respectively). Concerning services, exports stood at USD 6.5 billion and imports at USD 11.9 billion. In the same year, the trade balance was estimated to be positive by 2% of GDP, from 1.3% one year earlier (World Bank).

Foreign Trade Values 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 41,82838,75749,08658,55265,276
Exports of Goods (million USD) 65,71846,91671,64697,85391,188
Imports of Services (million USD) 15,0067,54411,48616,1500
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,9534,8185,8249,2660

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 58.450.843.844.437.7
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -26.3-32.5-29.724.19.2
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -4.4-17.3-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 28.227.324.421.517.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.223.519.422.819.8

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)
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -2.2-6.4-9.2-9.9-10.2

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Iran is the second producer country of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) 

Iran is the member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OEC) which includes nine other countries of Western and Central Asia (Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and five Republics of Central Asia) But the OEC has not succeeded in liberalizing exchanges between its members and continues to be passive in this regard.

Since 2005, Iran is an observer member of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (OCS) which includes China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The observer members include Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan. One of the goals of this organization is to facilitate co-operation between these States in the political, economic and commercial, scientific and technical, cultural and educational fields as well as in the fields of energy, transport, tourism and environment. The permanent members of the OCS account for 20% of the world oil reserves and 38 % of oil reserves.

Iran is in the process of negotiation to conclude a cooperation agreement with the European Union which has an economic dimension but for the moment these negotiations have stopped because of tensions related to the nuclear power file.

The country has signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 29.8%
Iraq 13.3%
Türkiye 9.0%
United Arab Emirates 7.3%
Afghanistan 2.7%
See More Countries 37.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United Arab Emirates 31.2%
China 24.1%
Türkiye 10.0%
Germany 3.6%
Russia 3.1%
See More Countries 28.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


Main Products

67.3 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 28.3%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 12.4%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary formsPolymers of ethylene, in primary forms 6.8%
Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated,...Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 4.2%
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 4.2%
See More Products 44.1%
53.0 bn USD of products imported in 2021
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) 8.4%
Maize or cornMaize or corn 6.4%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 4.7%
Soya beans, whether or not brokenSoya beans, whether or not broken 2.7%
Sunflower-seed, safflower or cotton-seed oil and...Sunflower-seed, safflower or cotton-seed oil and fractions thereof, whether or not refined, but not chemically modified 2.6%
See More Products 75.1%

Source: Comtrade, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


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Latest Update: April 2024