TME Services

Saudi Arabia’s Trade Surplus On The Rise7 min read

Author: Omar Sami
Managing Partner Attorney at German Law Legal- & Tax Consultant

Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus witnessed a significant rise in September, marking a second consecutive month of growth despite a downturn in oil exports. The surplus reached 44 billion Saudi riyals (approximately €11.7 billion), a 27.5% increase from August’s 34 billion riyals, according to the latest report from the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT).

Decline in Commodity Exports

The country saw a 17.1% decrease in commodity exports compared to the previous year, amounting to approximately 103.8 billion riyals (around €27.6 billion). This decline aligns with the global trends impacting commodity markets.

Oil Exports: Reduction Due to Voluntary Production Cuts

A significant factor contributing to the decrease in exports was the 17.1% drop in oil exports, falling to 83.1 billion riyals (approximately €22.1 billion). This reduction stems from Saudi Arabia’s voluntary production cuts initiated in May as part of its OPEC+ alliance commitments.

Oil's Dominance in Export Composition

Despite the decrease, oil exports still constituted 80.1% of total exports in September, a slight increase from 80% in the same month last year, underscoring the sector’s dominance in Saudi Arabia’s export economy.

 

Decrease in Non-Oil Exports and Imports

Non-oil exports, including re-exports, experienced a 17.2% decline, totalling 20.7 billion riyals in September 2023. Imports also decreased by 2.2%, amounting to 60.1 billion riyals.

 

Top Ten Trade Partners

The top ten export destinations list includes India, UAE, USA, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, and Poland, representing 67.1% of total exports. The leading countries for imports were China, USA, UAE, India, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, South Korea, and Italy, accounting for 62.3% of total imports.

 

Opportunities for Businesses

Despite a downturn in oil exports, the significant increase in Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus indicates the nation’s economic resilience and the potential benefits of diversification. Establishing a presence in Saudi Arabia could be advantageous for businesses for several reasons:

 

Economic Stability: The consistent growth in trade surplus points to a stable economic environment. Businesses often seek out stable markets as they plan for long-term investments.

Government Initiatives: Saudi Arabia is actively working towards diversifying its economy beyond oil, as evidenced by its Vision 2030 program. This initiative is creating opportunities in various sectors like tourism, entertainment, and technology, providing a wider scope for businesses to explore.

Strategic Location: Geographically, Saudi Arabia is well-positioned between the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, making it a strategic logistics hub for international trade.

Investment Incentives: The Saudi government offers various incentives to attract foreign investment, including tax breaks, subsidies, and support in navigating the regulatory environment.

Growing Markets: As the country diversifies, new markets are emerging within Saudi Arabia, offering growth opportunities for businesses that establish an early presence.

Infrastructure Development: Ongoing investments in infrastructure, including the development of mega-projects like NEOM, demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s commitment to creating a modern and efficient business environment.

Access to Regional Markets: By establishing a presence in Saudi Arabia, businesses can also gain easier access to the broader Middle Eastern and North African markets.

Skilled Workforce: The country invests in education and training to develop a skilled workforce supporting various industries.

High Standard of Living: For individuals considering a move, Saudi Arabia offers a high standard of living, with modern amenities and services.

 

While there are challenges, the economic indicators and strategic initiatives taken by Saudi Arabia suggest that it is a country looking towards the future, making it an attractive location for businesses aiming to establish a long-term presence in the Middle East.

How TME Services Can Support Your Business

TME Services is a team of 45 professionals in legal-, tax-, accounting and compliance with over 18 years of experience. We advised a significant number of SMEs in the context of the implementation of the tax framework in the UAE and KSA over the last decade to make sure that our clients are well-oriented in the new and fast-evolving tax landscape and to reduce the legal liability of managers which may arise in connection with non-compliance.

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