The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the two most dominant countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. These countries possess advantageous economic, cultural, financial, trade, and religious positions. They also represent almost half of the imports and exports for the entire region.
Herein is an analysis of KSA and UAE’s imports and exports across major categories. The data indicates key themes in food and fuels that will be the subject of parts three and four in this series.
J&A summarizes imports and exports into six major categories for MENA analysis
The nomenclature followed within these categories are based on World Customs Organization nomenclature and sector classifications for the harmonized system. Data was collected directly from publicly available World Bank systems.
The UAE and KSA Make up 50% of MENA’s Imports and Exports
- The UAE and KSA are the most dominant players in MENA, accounting for over 50% of the region’s imports and exports.
- Exports for the UAE, KSA, and the MENA region have steadily been increasing while imports have steadily decreased, suggesting increasing independence of MENA economies.
The UAE and KSA Are Relatively Equal When It Comes to Import Diversity
- The UAE and KSA import goods and services in relatively equal proportions.
- The UAE imports more than KSA by approximately 60%.
- Both the UAE and KSA import and export transportation, machinery, and raw materials more than any other category.
KSA Dominates the Region’s Fuel Exports; the UAE Leads in Transportation Exports
- KSA is by far the region’s leader in fuel exports, which serve as a major differentiator for the country and economy; there has been no year since 2015 where the UAE exported more fuels than KSA.
- Fuel is less than 50% of UAE exports on average, while it makes up nearly 80% of KSA’s exports in any given year.
- KSA’s second most common export is raw materials, accounting for approximately 10% of the kingdom’s exports.
The UAE and KSA are the most dominant players in the MENA economy. They account for the majority of imports and exports as well as most of the region’s economic activity. The UAE has been removing barriers to trade that are not tariff-related, such as allowing expedited customs and the use of technology to create more efficient government organizations. KSA has recently started opening trade policies that reflect UAE standards.