Mauritania flag Mauritania: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Mauritania

Foreign Trade in Figures

Mauritania is very open to international trade, which represents around 100% of its GDP (World Bank – latest data available). The government has taken steps to liberalize the economy, reduce trade barriers, and promote foreign investment. Mauritania has signed several trade agreements aimed at promoting trade and investment. These include the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which aims to create a single market for goods and services across the continent, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which aims to promote economic integration among West African countries. The country has also signed bilateral trade agreements with several countries, including China and the United States.
Its main exports include iron (around 50% of total exports, wholly produced by the state-owned mining company SNIM), fisheries (of which molluscs accounted for 11.3% and frozen fish for 8.5% in 2021), gold (9.9%), and copper (7.9%); whereas imports are led by petroleum products (around 25% of total imports), followed by food products, machinery and equipment (data Comtrade 2021).

In 2021, the main export partners were China (41.5%), Italy (10.7%), Canada (9.9%), Spain (9.6%) and Japan (6.9%). In the same year, imports came chiefly from Spain (14.9%), the UAE (14%), France (11.4%), Belgium (6.8%), and China (5.8%). Overall, Europe remained the biggest trading partner of Mauritania. While regional trade remains essentially informal and unrecorded, there has recently been a surge in fish exports to some West African countries, especially Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria (WTO).

After a fall in exports of iron and other minerals in 2011, the country's trade balance has remained deep in negative numbers due to the increased level of imports. In 2021, Mauritania's exports reached USD 4.3 billion (up by almost 53.5% year-on-year), whereas imports stood at USD 3.5 billion, marking a 29.8% increase vis-à-vis one year earlier. As per services, Mauritania’s exports are historically really low (at USD 193 million in 2021), the same as for imports (USD 782 million). According to the World Bank’s estimates, the total external trade balance for goods and services was negative by 21.5% of GDP in 2021 (from 13.3% one year earlier).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,1833,5202,7443,8604,618
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,0522,2662,8293,2673,204
Imports of Services (million USD) 6827937967931,357
Exports of Services (million USD) 167205193267219

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 89.196.294.7100.4124.2
Trade Balance (million USD) -706-570-288-606-1,002
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1,222-1,158-891-1,132-1,637
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 37.211.92.125.110.1
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.816.7-8.6-11.76.2
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 52.654.654.060.977.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 36.641.640.739.546.5

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) 10.25.82.70.51.1
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 3.34.45.13.84.7

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Since the 1990s, Mauritania has been implementing economic reforms trying to liberalize its economy, increase the competivity of its exports and reinforce its legislative framework. The prices were liberalized, barriers to trading were lifted, fiscal policy and custom duty procedures were reformed.

Mauritania is a member of the WTO (original member). It grants most-favored-nation treatment to the group of its commercial partners and has consolidated 41% of its tariff lines, that is to say the rates applied cannot be increased unless Mauritania compensates the affected partners. On the regional level, Mauritania is a part of the AMU (Arab Maghreb Union), the aim of which, to achieve free movement of persons, services, merchandise and capital, is for the moment only a project. Mauritania has also concluded bilateral trade agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, but the level of preference tariffs is yet to be established. Notably towards the European Union and the United States Mauritania benefits from preferential regime as part of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
China 23.3%
Canada 18.4%
Spain 11.2%
Switzerland 5.8%
United Arab Emirates 5.5%
See More Countries 35.7%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
United Arab Emirates 18.3%
Spain 16.1%
Japan 6.8%
France 6.7%
Belgium 4.9%
See More Countries 47.2%

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

 
 

Main Products

3.8 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 35.4%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 30.9%
Molluscs, fit for human consumption, even smoked,...Molluscs, fit for human consumption, even smoked, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine; flours, meals and pellets of molluscs, fit for human consumption 13.8%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 8.6%
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 3.5%
See More Products 7.7%
5.1 bn USD of products imported in 2022
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 37.4%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 6.3%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 5.8%
Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of...Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of iron or steel (excl. products of cast iron) 2.9%
Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 2.6%
See More Products 45.0%

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

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: December 2023