Italy's trade balance records a surplus of more than 50 billion euros, which means that Italy exports more than it imports. A positive trade balance usually leads to economic growth, more employment, and it could also be generally seen as a sign of economic strength. A trade surplus can help a country strengthen its currency, as the value of a currency is regulated by the demand for that currency overseas, which turns into demand for their goods. However, this is also influenced by other aspects, such as market factors. On the other hand, exporting more than importing might indicate that domestic demand is low, and importing more could mean that people in a country have more money to spend on imported goods. In the last decades, Italy's export value has been increasing, reaching over 470 billion euros, although 2020 has held growth back significantly.
During 2020, Italian exports are estimated to have dropped by around 16 percent compared to the previous year. In 2021 and 2022, an economic upturn is believed to increase demand for both exports and imports. The most affected export sectors are those of coke and petroleum, transportation, and fashion. Similarly, the imports of crude petroleum have recorded the largest drops. Due to travel restrictions, bans, and warnings as well as limitated social gatherings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, people's mobility has reduced and the demand for oil has decreased considerably. Consequently, the oil production per day has experienced a decline and prices have experienced a sharp fall. This scenario was observed particularly during the first global wave of infections in spring 2020.
The economic loss linked to the export drop has vast consequences for the Italian economy, as a large share of the GDP is generated via exports. As mentioned, the fashion industry has experienced a significant downturn in the last year. This represents an important aspect to observe, as Italy ranks among the leading five export countries of a wide range of products, especially fashion and food products. For instance, Italy is the leading exporter of leather and sunglasses in the world, and the second leading exporter of leather shoes, after China. In the food industry, it is the leading exporter of wine and pasta. In the import market, Italy's largest industry is transportation equipment, while metals and metal products, excluding plants and machinery, represent the second-largest group of imported goods.
For both imports and exports, Italy's main trade partner is the European Union. In the export industry, Germany is the major trade country, followed by France, but other non-EU countries are among the first destinations of Italian exports, such as the United States, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In 2019, about 12 percent of all exports coming from Italy went to Germany, which accounted for almost 60 billion euros of export value. In the future, this ranking might look quite different, as the exports towards other countries have increased significantly. For example, exports to Japan recently increased by approximately 20 percent, the largest growth among Italy's main importers. Similarly, exports to South Korea went up by roughly seven percent. In terms of value, Japan is currently the 14th largest trade partner for Italian exports, whereas South Korea is the 19th major destination.
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In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 22 most important statistics relating to "Export and imports in Italy".