Iran flag Iran: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Iran

Foreign Trade in Figures

Iran is a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the 5th largest producer among its members and the 9th largest producer in the world. The share of foreign trade in the country's GDP was over 44% in 2021 (World Bank, 2023). Exports are spearheaded by crude oil and petroleum products (67.2%), whereas maize and corn, rice, soya beans and medicines are among the main items of import.

Iran's main partners are China (21% of total exports), Iraq (21%), the United Arab Emirates (14%), Afghanistan (6.8%) and South Korea (5.9%). China is also the main supplier of goods to Iran (25% of total imports), followed by the United Arab Emirates (14%), India (6.5%), Turkey (6.3%) and Germany with 6% (Trading Economics, 2022). Imports in Iran increased to 15010 USD Million in the third quarter of 2022 from 13025 USD Million in the second quarter of 2021 (Central Bank of Iran, 2023).

The country has a structurally positive trade balance thanks to oil exports (70% of total exports in 2022); however, its scope is largely dependent on global oil prices. In 2020, merchandise exports for Iran was 53,543 million USD. Though Iran merchandise exports fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to increase in the past decade, ending at 53,543 million US dollars in 2020. China reported the first imports of Iranian crude oil in a year despite ongoing sanctions by the United States government, according to data released in January 2022. China brought in 260,312 tonnes of Iranian crude oil in December 2021, according to data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs, which last recorded Iranian oil inflows in December 2020 at 520,000 tonnes.

The government is aiming to diversify the country's exports, given that diversification of non-oil exports would lower the economy’s vulnerability.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 49,35341,82838,75748,97855,446
Exports of Goods (million USD) 103,42265,71846,91671,64677,200
Imports of Services (million USD) 17,25415,0067,27511,07711,958
Exports of Services (million USD) 9,90310,9534,7705,7676,528

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) -4.4-17.3-12.85.27.3
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) -2.47.13.50.41.1
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -15.0-8.5-8.6-11.9-11.1

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) https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/ 

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)
2021
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)
2021
United Arab Emirates 31.2%
China 24.1%
Türkiye 10.0%
Germany 3.6%
Russia 3.1%
See More Countries 28.0%

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

 
 

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Latest Update: December 2023