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 second largest producer among its members and the fifth largest producer in the world. The share of foreign trade in the country's GDP is over 51.3% (World Bank, latest available data of 2020). Exports are spearheaded by crude oil and petroleum products (69%), whereas Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers, cereal and electric and electronic equipments 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).

The country has a structurally positive trade balance thanks to oil exports (69% of total exports); 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 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 40,00049,49949,35341,82838,757
Exports of Goods (million USD) 66,00092,764103,42265,71853,543
Imports of Services (million USD) 14,694016,52714,0666,838
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,20209,5969,9494,482

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 43.248.865.156.236.2
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 6.113.4-29.5-38.1-32.4
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 41.31.8-12.5-29.9-12.2
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 20.823.831.830.921.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 22.424.933.225.315.0

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) 13.03.13.72.83.7
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 7.11.5-7.3-6.6-4.7

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) http://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)
2018
China 9.5%
Iraq 9.3%
United Arab Emirates 6.2%
Afghanistan 3.0%
South Korea 2.7%
See More Countries 69.3%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2018
China 24.9%
United Arab Emirates 13.8%
India 6.4%
Turkey 6.3%
Germany 5.9%
See More Countries 42.7%

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

 
 

Main Products

96.6 bn USD of products exported in 2018
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 52.6%
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 9.3%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 5.5%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary formsPolymers of ethylene, in primary forms 3.5%
Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated,...Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 2.3%
See More Products 26.8%
41.2 bn USD of products imported in 2018
Maize or cornMaize or corn 5.1%
RiceRice 3.9%
Soya beans, whether or not brokenSoya beans, whether or not broken 2.8%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.7%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 1.9%
See More Products 83.5%

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

 
 

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Latest Update: July 2022