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These Maps Show Every Country’s Most Valuable Import

Oil and cars are the most common top imports around the world. Even for countries with well-established domestic oil production and car manufacturing industries, transportation is by far the single most common driver of international trade, according to our latest series of maps.

Biggest Import by country

  • Oil is the most valuable top import for 126 countries around the world, making it by far the most popular.

  • Cars are the top import for 32 countries, which is nowhere near as common as oil but still prevalent across much of the industrialized world.

  • African countries are the true standouts in the world of top imports because they commonly bring in things like food and medicine from the rest of the world.

  • Many countries have the same top imports and exports, making it clear how interdependent the global economy truly is.

We found the data for this article thanks to CEPII, a leading French center for economic research and analysis. We located each country’s top import and classified its industry designation based on the UN Comtrade Database. We color-coded each country according to its top import industry as of 2018.

An interesting way to analyze this map is by comparing it with a similar map of exports. A major takeaway comparing imports and exports is how common it is for countries to buy and sell both petroleum and cars around the world. In fact, a lot of countries like England, France and Germany both have cars as both their most valuable import and export. Clearly people like driving foreign vehicles.

biggest import north americaThe most valuable imports in North America almost couldn’t be more straightforward. Americans and Canadians love to buy foreign cars, while Mexico and Greenland clearly need a lot of oil.

These Maps Show Every Country’s Most Valuable Import  https://howmuch.net/articles/biggest-import-by-country via @howmuch_net #trade #economy #imports #money #datavizAlmost all of Latin America, and most of the Carribean for that matter, is dependent on the importation of oil. This is why organizations like OPEC are critical for the smooth functioning of the global economy. Even Venezuela, an extremely oil-rich country with about 25% of all the known reserves in the world, buys petroleum on the international market. Predictably, a lot of countries in the Carribean import cruise vessels and yachts at high rates.

biggest import in europeThe most valuable imports for European countries are likewise oil and cars. In fact, several contiguous countries stretching from France up to Sweden and back down to Romania have vehicles as their most valuable import. Across Southern Europe, oil remains the most valuable, similar to the countries in Eastern Europe. The only exceptions to the general prevalence of oil and vehicles in European import markets are Switzerland (gold), Bulgaria (copper) and Macedonia (platinum).

biggest import in asiaSimilar to the situation across Europe, cars and oil dominate Asian import markets. There is one important caveat we should mention about our map. It is very common for global supply chains to touch multiple countries. This means that as things like electronics are assembled, they might pass through multiple places before ultimately landing in the destination market. This could be one reason why Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, for example, have electronics listed as their most valuable imports.

biggest import in africaOur map of the top imports across Africa contains an obvious insight into these economies. Instead of importing valuable consumer goods like electronics or high-priced manufacturing items like cars, a lot of African countries need to buy food and medicine from the world. Petroleum still figures to be an important category, however Africa is the only continent in the world where things like wheat and meat are the most valuable imports.

biggest import in oceaniaOur picture of top imports across Oceania echoes many of the themes from our other maps. Petroleum is the single most common category of imports. The Marshall Islands spend more on cruise ships than anything else. New Zealanders import a lot of cars every year, and some remote countries rely on food imports more than anything else

Why do you think oil and cars are the two most common top imports in the world? Let us know in the comments.


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