Tonga is a country open to foreign trade, which represented 73% of the country's GDP in 2021 (World Bank, 2023). The country is a member of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Agricultural and food products, including fish, make up more than two-thirds of total exports. The main imports are Refined Petroleum (11.4% of all imports in 2021), poultry meat (4.53%), cars (2.89%), sheep and goat meat (2.56%) and saw wood (2.35%). Customs duties remain relatively low (the average applied tariff rate is 5.5%), and there are no major trade barriers. The major export partners of Tonga are United States (22% of all exports in 2021), South Africa (17.8%), New Zealand (15.3%), Australia (13.2%) and South Korea with 10.6% (OEC, 2023). The country main suppliers are New Zealand (35.8% of all imports), China (20.2%), Fidji (17.7%) and Australia with 6.1% (OEC, 2023).
The archipelago imports much more than it exports. As a result, it suffers from chronic trade deficit, which should continue in the coming years despite substantial international aid. In 2021, Tonga exported 16 million USD and imported 276 million USD in goods (WTO and World Bank, 2023), resulting in a deficit of 198 million USD. According to figures from the World Bank, Tonga’s overall trade deficit stood at 25.6% of the country’s GDP in 2020.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||238||230||238||229||276|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||19||13||20||15||16|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||90||99||99||89||72|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||77||87||94||71||43|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||3||-1||5||-4||-13|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||-6||1||-3||-6||-49|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-185||-203||-206||-191||-198|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||88||88||87||86||73|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||66||66||65||65||61|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||22||21||22||21||13|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023