The Most Import-Dependent Economy in the World

The lines of trade around the world have just become more complex. Sanctions against Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine have immediately affected the movement of oil, semiconductors, and, to some extent, money. Russia’s exports of oil have slowed substantially. Its ability to import goods from most of the Western economies has diminished sharply. The effect on energy prices, particularly in Europe, has already begun.

Even huge economies like the U.S. rely on imports, despite the country’s ability to build everything from cars to commercial airplanes. America relies on electronic components for a long list of consumer and business technologies. Some food products not grown in the U.S. also get imported. The global economy relies tremendously on trade, and the most import-dependent country in the world is Hong Kong.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in many ways, including global trade. Many of the nations whose economies have struggled most during the pandemic are heavily dependent on international trade. Some are low-income countries like Somalia, while others may be geographically small but have among the highest global per-capita incomes, like Luxembourg. (Somalia ranks among the poorest countries in the world.)

To find the most trade-dependent economy in the world, 24/7 Wall St. ranked countries by imports as a percentage of gross domestic product, using data from the World Bank. Additional data is also from the World Bank for the most recent year available and in current U.S. dollars. Exports and imports of goods and services include merchandise, freight services, communications services, banking, insurance, royalties, licensing fees but not factor services, like the cost of employee compensation, investment income, or international money transfers.

Smaller countries lacking in natural and human resources tend to be more reliant on trade due to limitations of their size. Larger countries may be dependent on trade due to their stage of economic development as they work toward industrialization and diversification. Being reliant on trade makes these economies more vulnerable to global trade downturns.

Hong Kong imports are valued at $606 billion, or 175% of its GDP of nearly $347 billion. The special administrative region of China also exports about as much, with total trade worth over 351% of its GDP. This means that while the country has the 35th largest economy by GDP, it has the second highest total trade value at $1.2 trillion. A portion of trade in Hong Kong consists of transshipment, or goods that travel through the country. (Find out if Hong Kong is among the 25 richest countries in the world.)

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