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Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards


Foreign Trade in Figures

Saudi Arabia is the 22nd largest exporter of goods and the 27th largest import market in the world. Foreign trade represents 61% of its GDP (2017). The country's trade  balance,  although  structurally  in  surplus,  fluctuates  depending on the price of oil and global demand. Exports fell by more than 40%, while imports fell by only 2.2%. According to preliminary estimates, the trade surplus continued to shrink in 2016, but it began to recover at the       end of the year.  Both oil and non-oil exports increased in 2017 while imports continued to fall. Oil exports rose to    SAR 614 billion (19.1% increase in December 2017, 20.27% annual increase) while non-oil exports stood at SAR 177 billion (17.2% increase in December 2017, 0.2% annual decrease). Imports of goods and services, on the other hand, fell      to SAR 722 billion (2.88% annual decrease).
Saudi Arabia's main export partners are the UAE, China, India, Singapore and Kuwait. Its main import partners are China, the United States, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the UAE. The country mainly exports hydrocarbons and imports vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, iron, steel and food products.

In order to promote international trade, attract foreign investment and diversify the non-oil sectors, the government has announced plans to establish four 'economic cities' in different regions of the country.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 155,593168,155173,834172,252139,390
Exports of Goods (million USD) 388,401375,873342,299201,739174,919
Imports of Services (million USD) 49,88951,74562,68356,52071,159
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,57511,30811,96213,80715,958
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 3.40.2-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 29.230.833.838.930.2
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 54.351.946.933.430.7
Trade Balance (million USD) 246,570222,557183,99544,26555,764
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 184,213157,75095,966-29,29783
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 83.582.780.672.460.9

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2017; World Bank - 2017


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United Arab Emirates 3.2%
China 2.0%
India 1.2%
Singapore 1.1%
Kuwait 0.8%
Qatar 0.8%
Bahrain 0.7%
Egypt 0.7%
Turkey 0.7%
Belgium 0.6%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 14.5%
United States 13.4%
Germany 6.3%
Japan 5.5%
United Arab Emirates 5.3%
South Korea 4.5%
India 3.8%
Italy 3.3%
France 2.6%
United Kingdom 2.3%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Products

207.4 bn USD of products exported in 2016
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 65.6%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 11.4%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary forms 3.9%
Polymers of propylene or of other olefins, in primary forms 2.1%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 1.8%
Ethers, ether-alcohols, ether-phenols, ether-alcohol-phenols, alcohol peroxides, ether peroxide, ketone peroxides, whether or not chemically defined, and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 1.6%
Tugs and pusher craft 0.9%
Cyclic hydrocarbons 0.7%
Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 0.7%
Unwrought aluminium 0.5%
129.8 bn USD of products imported in 2016
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 9.9%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 3.3%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.7%
Parts of aircraft and spacecraft of heading 8801 or 8802, n.e.s. 2.1%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.7%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 1.7%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.3%
Taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances for pipes, boiler shells, tanks, vats or the like, incl. pressure-reducing valves and thermostatically controlled valves; parts thereof 1.3%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 1.1%
New pneumatic tyres, of rubber 1.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Services

24.5 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Government services
Communications services
Insurance services
Financial services
Other business services
196.8 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Government services
Other business services
Construction services
Insurance services
Communications services
Financial services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Saudi Riyal (SAR)
Exchange Rate Regime
The Saudi Arabian Riyal is pegged against a single currency i.e. US dollar.

Moreover Saudi Arabia imposes no foreign exchange restrictions on capital receipts or payments by residents or nonresidents, except there is a prohibition against transactions with Israel.

Level of Currency Instability
Monetary Indicators 20132014201520162017
Saudi Riyal (SAR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 3.753.753.753.753.75

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of the Arab League.

The country is also part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area.

Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
- Certificate of origin

- Commercial invoice (in triplicate) which must state the country of origin, name of the carrier, brand and number of goods, and description of the goods including weight and value

- A clean bill of lading or airway bill

- Documents indicating compliance with health regulations, if applicable

- Insurance documents if shipments are sent CIF; and Packing list. -packing list

-Certificate of conformity with applicable Saudi standards, if available

The original documents must be accompanied by an Arabic translation of a radiation certificate, if applicable.
Free Zones
For Further Information
Saudi Arabia Department of Customs
Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Non Tariff Barriers
The documentary regulation, required for the expedition of goods in Saudi Arabia necessitate the following documents - commercial invoice, certificate of origin, airway bill, certificate of assurance (if CIF sale), SASO compliance certificate when applicable. These documents should be stamped by the following organisations: Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the exporter country, "bilateral" Chamber of Commerce, Consulate of Saudi Arabia from the exporter country.

Saudi Arabia forbids imports of certain items for religious or security reasons. It bans imports of alcohol and of non-medical drugs, and also most non-Islamic religious materials and other materials deemed offensive to Islamic principles. Weapons and electronic equipment are tightly controlled for security reasons. For meats, a sanitary certificate is required, and should be delivered by the veterinarian services of the exporter country, as well as a slaughter certificate according to the Islamic rites, which is delivered by the Competent Islamic Authority of the exporter country. These documents should be signed either by the "bilateral" Chamber of Commerce or by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country's commercial policy, as seen by the WTO
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

Learn more about How to Export to Saudi Arabia on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.



National Standards Organisations
Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation (SASO)
Integration in the International Standards Network
Saudi Arabia is a member of:

International Standard Organisation (ISO)

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Obligation to Use Standards
The SASO mark is mandatory.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry is responsible for Certificate of Conformity (CoC) which is mandatory for all consumer goods entering the country.

Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) regulates import of telecommunications and IT products and services.

Classification of Standards
SASO has decided to adopt ISO 9000 as the accepted standard for Saudi Arabia, and acts as an accreditation body through the Quality Assurance Department. Nonetheless, SASO also accepts ASTM, NEMA, ANSI, UL, and NFPA standards.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
The certification programme known as the ICCP is applicable to 66 regulated products since 1995. The purpose of the programme is to ensure consumer protection and that products entering Saudi Arabia conform to SASO standards. SASO was in charge of implementing and monitoring the International Conformity Certification Program (ICCP) through an agreement with Intertek, which has a global presence. Currently conformity assessment can be requested through a number of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) like Bureau Veritas, SGS and TUV.
Online Consultation of Standards
Oum Al-Qura is the official gazette in which the regulations are published. For details, visit SASO website.
Certification Organisations
Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation (SASO)
The International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation of which Saudi Arabia is an affiliate member.
Associations of Standards Users
Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation (SASO)


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Last Updates: May 2018