The world’s most import-dependent economy

Trade lines around the world are becoming increasingly complex. Sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine immediately affected the movement of oil, semiconductors, and, to some extent, money. Russian oil exports have slowed dramatically. The ability to import goods from most Western economies has fallen sharply. The impact on energy prices is starting to show, especially in Europe.

Even huge economies like the United States depend on imports, despite the country’s ability to build everything from cars to commercial aircraft. America relies on electronic components for a long list of consumer and business technologies. Some foods not grown in the United States are also imported. The world economy is highly dependent on trade and the country most dependent on imports is Hong Kong.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in many ways, including global trade. Many of the countries whose economies have suffered the most during the pandemic are highly dependent on international trade. Some are low-income countries, such as Somalia, while others are small geographically but among the highest per capita incomes, such as Luxembourg. (Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world.)

To find the world’s most trade-dependent economy, 24/7 Wall Street ranked countries by imports as a percentage of GDP, using data from world bank† Additional data is also available from the World Bank for the latest available year and in current US dollars. Exports and imports of goods and services include merchandise, freight services, communications services, banking services, insurance, royalties, and license fees, but excludes factoring services, such as the cost of employee benefits, investment income, or international transfers.

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Smaller countries that lack natural and human resources tend to rely more on trade due to their size. Larger countries, due to their stage of economic development, may rely on trade as they work towards industrialization and diversification. Reliance on trade makes these economies more vulnerable to a decline in global trade.

Hong Kong’s imports are estimated at $606 billion, or 175% of the gross domestic product of about $347 billion. The Special Administrative Region of China also exports the same amount, with total trade estimated at more than 351% of GDP. This means that although the country has the 35 largest economies by GDP, it has the second highest total trade value of $1.2 trillion. Part of Hong Kong’s trade consists of trans-shipment or goods that are transported across the country. (Find out if Hong Kong is among the 25 richest countries in the world.)

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