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The goods and products imported into Lebanon stood in 2012 at USD 21.279 billion, while exports were as modest as USD 4.483 billion, i.e. a deficit of USD 16.797 billion. The discrepancy has been growing with years as illustrated in the following Table 1. Some attribute the rise in the size of imports by 31% compared to 2009, meaning an average of 10.3% per year, to the growing needs dictated by the presence of Syrian refugees, for the growth in imports was at lower rates before 2010, except in 2004 and 2008.

Exports’ growth rates stood at 189% as opposed to 197% for imports during the past ten years.

Imports, exports and trade deficit between 2003 and 2012

Table 1

Year

Value of imports

(USD billion)

Growth rate of imports (%)

Value of exports

(USD billion)

Growth rate

of exports (%)

Deficit in trade balance

Deficit (%)

2003

7.168

-

1.524

-

5.644

370

2004

9.397

31

1.747

14.6

7.650

438

2005

9.340

0.6

1.880

7.6

7.460

397

2006

9.379

0.4

2.282

21.4

7.097

311

2007

11.815

26

2.815

23.3

9.000

320

2008

16.136

36.5

3.478

23.6

12.658

364

2009

16.241

0.6

3.484

0.1

12.757

366

2010

17.963

10.6

4.252

22

13.711

322

2011

20.158

12.2

4.265

0.3

15.893

373

2012

21.279

5.5

4.403

3.2

16.797

382

Source: General Directorate of Customs

Trade Partners

The US ranks as Lebanon’s top trade partner with goods and products imported at around USD 2.3 billion. Italy and China rank second and third respectively. Around 74% of Lebanon’s imports come from the 20 countries listed in the table below:

20 largest sources of imported goods in 2012

Table 2

Country

Values of goods and products imported by Lebanon (USD million)

US

2,375

Italy

1,830

China

1,773

France

1,540

Germany

1,202

Turkey

965

Greece

891

Egypt

840

Britain

518

Switzerland

508

Spain

426

Russia

423

Saudi

423

Ukraine

423

UAE

416

Holland

406

India

348

Japan

363

Source: General Directorate of Customs

South Africa is the top market for Lebanese products, followed by Switzerland. 82% of Lebanon’s exports are centered in 20 countries and the following Table 3 illustrates the top 20 foreign markets to which Lebanese commodities were shipped in 2012.

20 largest markets for exported goods in 2012

Table 3

Country

Values of goods and products exported by Lebanon

(USD million)

South Africa

864

Switzerland

547

KSA

359

UAE

352

Syria

294

Iraq

211

Turkey

157

Jordan

142

Belgium

111

Egypt

88

Qatar

85

Kuwait

68

USA

64

France

60

Korea

57

Angola

55

Congo

45

Britain

44

Nigeria

43

Germany

34

Source: General Directorate of Customs

Between 2005 and 2010, Italy was Lebanon’s top source of imports, but the US overshadowed it and ranked first starting 2006. Regarding exports, the KSA was the major destination for Lebanese commodities before 2002 until the UAE emerged and topped the list in 2003. Table 4 illustrates the top three countries with whom Lebanon have traded goods by means of importation or exportation between 2003 and 2012.

Lebanon’s top 3 trade partners (2003-2012)

Table 4

Year

Top 3 import sources

Top 3 export destinations

2003

  • Italy
  • UAE

2004

  • Italy
  • France
  • USA
  • Iraq
  • Switzerland
  • UAE

2005

  • Italy
  • France
  • China
  • Switzerland
  • Iraq
  • UAE

2006

  • USA
  • France
  • China
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • KSA

2007

  • USA
  • Italy
  • China
  • Switzerland
  • UAE
  • Syria

2008

  • USA
  • China
  • France
  • UAE
  • Switzerland
  • Iraq

2009

  • USA
  • France
  • China
  • Switzerland
  • UAE
  • Iraq

2010

  • USA
  • China
  • Italy
  • Switzerland
  • UAE
  • France

2011

  • USA
  • China
  • Italy
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • UAE

2012

  • USA
  • Italy
  • China
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • KSA

Source: General Directorate of Customs

Deficit, surplus, equilibrium

The balance between Lebanon and its trade partners differs depending on the country, recording surplus with a few countries and sharp deficit with the majority. The following table 5 illustrates the state of Lebanon’s trade balance with some of its trade partners.

State of trade balance in 2012

Table 5

Country

Value of imports

(USD million)

Value of exports (USD million)

State of trade balance

USA

1.990

65

-1.925

Italy

1.868

36

-1.832

China

1.624

43

-1.581

France

1.510

57

-1.453

Germany

1.140

45

-1.095

Egypt

942

67

-875

Turkey

840

276

-564

Russia

514

13

-501

Switzerland

994

514

-480

Britain

521

61

-460

Ukraine

385

1

-384

Japan

404

22

-382

Brazil

304

2

-302

UAE

594

322

-272

Kuwait

302

77

-225

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

531

308

-223

Belgium

250

131

-119

Syria

310

215

-95

Iran

42

13

-29

Sudan

23

26

-3

South Africa

9

673

+664

Iraq

4

179

+193

Angola

0

50

+50

Qatar

33

80

+47

Oman

12

13

+1

Source: General Directorate of Customs



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