The Marshall Islands is very open to foreign trade, which accounts for 116% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). Custom duties are relatively low, and the country has very few trade barriers. However, the Marshall Islands has very limited natural resources and consequently little base for exports. In 2021 (latest data available - International Trade Centre), the country mainly exported ships (90%); fish (5.8%); mineral fuels (1.5%); and electrical machinery (1.3%); whereas imports were led by ships (56.7%); mineral fuels (25.8%); machinery (11.4%); and iron and steel (3%).
According to the latest data by ITC, in 2021, the main destinations for the country’s exports were Denmark (33.6%), South Korea (20.1%), Germany (14.7%), Poland (9.2%), and Cyprus (3.7%); while the main countries for imports were Singapore (25.2%), South Korea (24.3%), China (22.4%), Japan (8.5%), and Cyprus (2.1%). Overall, the country lacks adequate infrastructure and airline transportation and is fairly far from the developed economies of the region (e.g. Japan, Australia, etc.). Trade policy is conducted by the COFA Agreement under which the country has duty-free access to the U.S. market, and is also a member of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA).
The country imports in high volumes, while its exports are very weak, resulting in an enormous trade deficit. According to figures from ITC, in 2021 the Marshall Islands exported USD 1.4 billion worth of goods (up by 85% year-on-year), whereas imports decreased by 5% (to USD 14.2 billion). Data from the World Bank show that the country's external trade deficit stood at 23.1% of GDP in 2021, down from 37.4% one year earlier.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||90||75||68||75||80|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||40||41||55||44||80|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||n/a||0||0||0||0|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||11||2||36||-29||-8|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||-3||6||12||-5||23|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-58||-33||-3||-47||n/a|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||126||129||152||108||116|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||87||89||115||73||70|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||39||40||37||36||47|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows
|0.0 bn USD of services exported in 2018|
|Business travelBusiness travel||24.90%|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||7.21%|
|0.1 bn USD of services imported in 2018|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||27.10%|
|Business travelBusiness travel||8.59%|
Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data
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Latest Update: September 2023