Libya flag Libya: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Libya

Foreign Trade in Figures

Trade has been an important element of the Libyan economy since the early 2000s, peaking at 108% of GDP in 2009, before the country became embroiled in another civil war. Nevertheless, its share recovered slightly in the last few years and, according to the latest available data, it reached 78% in 2021 (World Bank). Main exports included crude oil, refined petroleum products, and natural gas (94% of total exports, UNCTAD), as well as gold, iron, and copper. Significant items of import include refined petroleum, automobiles, transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, rolled tobacco, and medicaments.

As a member of organizations such as the Arab League, the African Union (AU), and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Libya engages in multilateral discussions and initiatives aimed at fostering cooperation and economic development. Additionally, Libya has historically participated in regional trade agreements, including agreements within the Arab world and Africa, to promote trade relations with neighboring countries. However, due to political instability and conflict in recent years, Libya's active participation in international trade organizations and agreements has been limited. The country is not a member of the WTO. The country’s main export partners are the European Union (60.1%), China (22.5%), the United Arab Emirates (4.1%), the United States of America (2.7%), and Australia (1.9%), whereas imports come chiefly from the European Union (32.2%), China (15.7%), Turkey (13.2%), the United Arab Emirates (8.6%), and Egypt (5.3% - WTO, latest data available).

Libya's economic growth was suspended in 2011 due to the eruption of the civil war. The conflict halted commercial activities, especially exports of oil. In addition, economic and trade sanctions imposed by Western countries before the fall of Colonel Gaddafi significantly hampered trade. According to the last available data from the WTO, goods exports increased by 12.7% year-on-year in 2022, totaling USD 37.6 billion, while imports grew at a faster pace (+70%), reaching USD 29.6 billion.

Foreign Trade Values 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 22,69412,91217,43229,63420,523
Exports of Goods (million USD) 29,0589,31233,41737,68635,270
Imports of Services (million USD) 7,6425,18600n/a
Exports of Services (million USD) 26822600n/a

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 41.147.563.878.2n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -1,9038,30816,04411,332164
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -4,7003,85711,1153,958-4,797
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -41.627.423.81.42.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -27.0128.622.0-13.0-52.6
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 26.520.424.235.4n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.627.239.642.8n/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.3-3.6-1.9-0.5-1.8

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Libya is a member of the Arab Monetary Fund, the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the Islamic Development Bank, OPEC and the AMU. Since 2004, Libya has been an observer at the WTO prior to becoming a member. 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.

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Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: May 2024