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20 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World

In this article, we will take a look at the 20 countries with the highest trade surplus in the world. If you would like to skip our discussion on the trends in global trade, you can go to the 5 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World.

International trade, the exchange of goods and services between countries, forms the lifeblood of the global economy. A key metric in gauging a country's trade health is its trade balance, reflecting the difference between the value of its exports and imports. When a country exports more than it imports, it is listed among trade surplus countries. Conversely, countries with trade deficits have more imports than exports. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade, the year 2023 witnessed significant shifts in global trade patterns and was majorly impacted by supply chain disruptions, inflation as well as growing geopolitical tensions. This led to a decline of 5% in the trade of goods. Despite the slowdown in goods trade, the services sector displayed surprising resilience. A modest growth of 8% was witnessed in global services trade. This growth can be attributed to the revival of the tourism sector post-COVID, which saw an impressive increase of 40% in 2023.

In 2023, international trade across major sectors witnessed a decline, with a few exceptions. Sectors like pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and transport equipment experienced continued trade activity. Notably, electric vehicles saw a sharp increase in trade, reflecting the growing global focus on sustainability. Fortunately, most sectors exhibited a trade rebound in the final quarter of 2023, except for apparel, where trade continued to decline. In 2024, the projections are more optimistic due to the improvement in global economic growth forecasts and the end of a downward trend in goods trade. The rise of "environmental trade," focusing on sustainable practices and green technologies, is projected to experience a boost, positively impacting overall trade.

Overview of the Global Freight Trucking Industry

The global freight trucking industry is the backbone of global trade, serving as the essential link that moves goods across vast distances. In 2022, this industry's market size reached an estimated $2.2 trillion. The report from Research and Markets paints a bright picture for the trucking industry, predicting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4%. This translates to a projected market size of $3.4 trillion by 2030. This growth is likely to be fueled by several key trends, namely the e-commerce boom and the recent growth in global trade, as discussed earlier. Despite the positive outlook, the trucking industry faces significant challenges, including rising fuel costs and labor shortages. DHL International GmbH, owned by Deutsche Post AG (XETRA:DHL.DE), A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S (CPH:MAERSK-B), and Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. (NYSE:EXPD) are all major names in the global freight trucking industry.

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Deutsche Post AG (XETRA:DHL.DE) is a powerhouse in the supply chain management sector. DHL International is spearheading the shift towards sustainable transportation solutions through several noteworthy initiatives. The company launched its electric truck fleet in Berlin in 2023. These zero-emission trucks are significantly more energy efficient than traditional diesel-powered models, contributing to cleaner air and reduced noise pollution in urban environments. Additionally, the company is also expanding its use of biogas trucks in Germany. With a current fleet of 110 biogas trucks and projections to reach 350 by the end of the year, DHL is demonstrating a significant commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S (CPH:MAERSK-B), another titan in the global trucking industry, isn't afraid to push boundaries. They're actively exploring the future of transportation with their driverless truck initiative in the US. This innovative project, undertaken in collaboration with Kodiak Robotics, holds the potential to revolutionize the trucking landscape by improving safety, enhancing efficiency, reducing fuel consumption, and allowing 24/7 operations.

Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. (NYSE:EXPD) is another prominent player in the global logistics arena that is strategically expanding its footprint. The company has skilled experts working across 346 sites spread across 101 countries.

20 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World
20 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World

Travel mania/Shutterstock.com

Our Methodology

To shortlist the 20 countries with the highest trade surplus in the world, we have used data from the World Bank. The countries have been ranked in ascending order of their net trade surplus as of 2022.

You can also check out the Top 25 Oil Exporting Countries in the World in 2024 here.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders. 

20 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World

20. Oman

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 23,375,288.32

Oman, a West Asian country, is a major exporter of oil. Oman’s economy is basically built around the oil sector, with crude oil, refined petroleum, and natural gas making up most of its exports. Meanwhile, the country's imports consist of machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, and food items. The United Arab Emirates receives over 21% of Oman's exports, with Saudi Arabia at 10.7%, the United States at 9.3%, and India at 7.2%, closely following suit.

19. Azerbaijan

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 25,999,657.00

Azerbaijan's oil and gas exports accounted for a whopping 90% of its total exports in 2022. This dominance is reflected in its top exports, with crude petroleum and petroleum gas leading the pack at $19.4 billion and $15.5 billion, respectively. Other notable exports include refined petroleum products, fertilizers, and even some gold. This strong export profile translates to a trade surplus, with Italy being the primary recipient of Azerbaijani goods, followed by Turkey, Israel, India, and Greece.

18. Malaysia

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 29,255,637.65

The global tech boom has fueled an expansion in Malaysia's electronics and electrical products industry.  These sectors now represent 38.2% of the country's exports. Singapore, China, the United States, Japan, and Hong Kong are the top destinations for the country’s exports. However, Malaysia's economic success wasn't built overnight. It has a long history of producing and exporting primary goods like crude oil, palm oil, tin, and rubber. In fact, Malaysia remains among the world leaders in rubber production and is a major player in other commodities like cocoa, palm oil, tropical hardwoods, pepper, and tin.

17. Luxembourg

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 30,383,941.57

Despite its size, Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita globally as of 2022, thanks in large part to its strong financial sector, steel industry, and industrial sector. The country imports raw materials like minerals and metals and exports finished products like iron blocks, rubber tires, gas turbines, and even cars. Luxembourg is at the seventeenth position on our list of countries with the highest trade surplus in the world.

16. Kazakhstan

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 33,433674.20

Kazakhstan is a prominent economic leader in Central Asia. Oil leads the country’s exports, followed by natural gas, ferrous metals, and a wealth of other minerals like copper, aluminum, zinc, and even uranium. China, Italy, Russia, and the Netherlands are some of the top destinations for these exports. Interestingly, Kazakhstan imports most of its cars and related vehicles (planes and helicopters included) from Russia, China, and Germany.

15. Indonesia

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 42,426,606.02

Indonesia is a Southeast Asian country with a high trade surplus. Its major exports include oil and gas, minerals, electrical appliances, crude palm oil, and rubber products. Indonesia's trading partners include leading economies of Asia, with Japan, China, Singapore, and South Korea playing key roles. The United States is also a major trade partner. The country's imports include petroleum oils, mineral fuels, chemicals, machinery, and food items.

14. Denmark

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 44,258,899.10

Denmark thrives on a modern mixed economy, with a high standard of living and one of the world's highest GDPs per capita. Denmark's export expertise lies in high-value goods like packaged medicaments, followed by electricity, refined petroleum, and meat. Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and other EU nations are key trading partners. Denmark is among the top 15 countries with the highest trade surplus in the world.

13. Kuwait

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 55,013,741.54

Oil plays a central role in Kuwait's economy. Its vast reserves, estimated at 101.5 billion barrels, fuel a powerful oil sector and dominate the overall economy. The US is a key customer of Kuwaiti petroleum products. Kuwait relies on imports from major players like China, the United States, the UAE, Japan, South Korea, and Germany to meet its domestic needs. These imports include capital equipment, food, and supplies for manufacturing and consumer goods.

12. Iraq

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 57,917,300.00

Oil is the lifeblood of Iraq's economy.  Located in Western Asia, Iraq's oil production makes up the biggest chunk of its GDP and nearly all its export earnings. The country's exports are heavily dominated by petroleum products, with crude oil leading the pack at $111 billion as of 2022. Iraq's main export partners include India, China, the United States, South Korea, and Greece.

11. Qatar

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 87,172,802.20

A leader in natural gas, Qatar's wealth stems from its massive reserves, accounting for over 15% of the world's total. Beyond oil and gas, Qatar also exports fertilizers and ethylene polymers. China is Qatar's biggest export partner, followed by India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

10. Germany

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 87,290,175.51

Germany is among the top 10 countries with the highest trade surplus in the world. The country is a global export giant, having reached a staggering $1.62 trillion in exports in 2022. China remains Germany's biggest trading partner, followed by the Netherlands and the United States.

9. Australia

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 97,467,060.81

Australia has a thriving export industry driven by a diverse range of commodities. Leading the charge are coal briquettes, iron ore, and liquefied natural gas, highlighting the nation's vast natural resources. Additionally, gold and wheat contribute to the country's export portfolio. Australia conducts the most trade with China, followed closely by Japan, South Korea, India, and Chinese Taipei.

8. Netherlands

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 108,950,405.53

The Netherlands is one of the most economically progressive countries in the world, with a diverse export portfolio. Machinery and transport equipment make up 28% of the country’s total exports.  Beyond this core strength, the Netherlands also exports significant quantities of mineral fuels (23%), food products (11%), apparel and footwear (10%), and pharmaceuticals (5%).

7. Switzerland

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 109,089,046.01

Switzerland has an impressive export portfolio. Gold leads as Switzerland's top export, generating around $101 billion annually as of 2022. The life sciences sector is another major driver, with $46.7 billion worth of vaccines, blood products, and other medical supplies exported each year. Packaged medications ($45.4 billion), nitrogen heterocyclic compounds ($16.6 billion), and base metal watches ($16.1 billion) round out Switzerland's export profile.

6. Norway

Net Trade Surplus in US$ (Thousands): 164,200,430.55

Norway thrives on a dynamic trade sector, with exports accounting for 71% of its GDP.  The country's wealth stems largely from its abundant natural resources. Petroleum gas stands out as Norway's top export, generating an impressive $154 billion annually, closely followed by crude petroleum at $58.9 billion as of 2022. However, Norway's economic landscape is not solely reliant on petroleum. Its extensive coastline fuels a thriving seafood industry, with non-fillet fresh fish exports reaching $9.07 billion in 2022.

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Disclosure: None. 20 Countries With The Highest Trade Surplus in the World is published on Insider Monkey.