Trade is essential to Vanuatu’s economy and represented 53% of the country's GDP in 2021 according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources in 2021. Vanuatu is a member of WTO since 2012 and the country has committed to strengthening their partnership from 2018.
The main exports are non-fillet frozen fish (42.1% of all exports in 2021), Special purpose ships (30.6%) and passenger and cargo ships (8.35%); while the country mainly imports fuels (12.6% of all imports in 2021), fishing ships (3.64%), poultry meat (3.42%) and rice with 2.19% (OEC, 2023). In January 2020, the government decided to suspend the issuing and renewal of all kava export licences, due to concerns that exporters where taking advantage of farmers, paying them too low prices (in some cases -90% compared to normal prices). The country main trading partners in 2020 were Thailand (53.8% of all exports), Japan (17.9%), South Korea (5.84%) and Cyprus (5.43%) ; while imports came mainly from China (25.5%), Australia (15.7%), New Zealand (14.9%) and Fiji with 8.47% (OEC, 2023).
The archipelago imports more than it exports, which creates a structural trade deficit, a trend that has worsened since the economic slowdown and the damage caused by recent cyclones which Vanuatu still has to fully recover from. According to 2022 figures from the WTO, Vanuatu exported 54 million USD worth of goods in 2021 and imported 339 million USD resulting in a deficit of 285 million USD. Custom duties are relatively high since the country's income is mainly generated through import duties. High tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade have held back integration into the global marketplace, just as limited availability of funds, lack of adequate infrastructure and the long distances between the markets of the main islands create additional barriers to trade.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||370||390||357||301||339|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||47||61||56||46||54|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||155||152||139||141||124|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||360||367||332||130||36|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||3||10||2||-18||2|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||-1||3||11||-70||-42|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-256||-240||-224||-208||-242|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||106||98||99||59||53|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||58||50||49||42||43|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||48||47||50||17||10|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023