Uruguay flag Uruguay: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Uruguay

Foreign Trade in Figures

Uruguay has an open economy and foreign trade represents 46.4% of the GDP. The country mainly exports meat (18.5%), soya beans (11%), wood (9.9%), milk and cream (6.8%), and rice (6.7%). The main imports include petroleum oils (9%), electrical apparatus for line telephony (3.3%), motor vehicles (3.3%), insecticides (2.1%), and medicaments (2%). According to IMF Foreign Trade Forecasts, the volume of exports of goods and services decreased by 16.2% in 2020, while the volume of imports of goods and services decreased by 10.8%. The unprecedented fall in volume of imports and exports in 2020 was due to the global economic crisis following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uruguay's main trade partners are China, Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Algeria, and Angola. The Uruguayan economy is based on industry, trade and banking services (in the capital Montevideo), as well as agriculture, livestock farming (in the centre of the country) and tourism (in the East). Uruguay is a founding member of MERCOSUR, upon which it strongly depends. The country is also a member of ALADI, a trade association that includes ten South American countries as well as Cuba, Mexico, and Panama. Under ALADI’s Economic Complementation Agreements, Uruguay enjoys and grants special preferential access to trade with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Additionally, trade relations with Argentina and Brazil are extremely important, as those countries account for over half of Uruguay’s exports and imports, combined.

As Uruguay mainly exports agricultural products, they are highly vulnerable to international price fluctuations. In 2020, their exports of goods amounted to USD 6.8 million, while imports totalled USD 7.5 million. As for services, imports equalled USD 3.42 million, while exports reached USD 3.49 billion. As a result, the country had a trade surplus in terms of goods of USD 2.1 million and a trade surplus including services of USD 2.2 million.

Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 8,4588,8938,2467,56410,320
Exports of Goods (million USD) 7,8887,4987,6806,8579,539
Imports of Services (million USD) 3,4384,4224,5963,4293,929
Exports of Services (million USD) 4,9595,3505,2063,4993,776

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 46.847.849.645.856.8
Trade Balance (million USD) 1,9572,2913,0752,0763,963
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 3,4783,2683,7512,3843,769
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 7.1-0.01.5-12.020.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.9-1.73.6-16.014.4
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 20.721.421.920.725.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 26.126.427.825.131.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20222023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change)
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change)

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Uruguay is member of the Latin American Integration Association. It also belongs to the Mercosur, and has signed a free trade agreement with Mexico. The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 20.3%
Brazil 15.4%
United States 7.7%
Argentina 4.4%
Algeria 3.1%
See More Countries 49.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Brazil 21.1%
China 19.0%
Argentina 13.0%
United States 11.4%
Angola 2.8%
See More Countries 32.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


Main Products

6.9 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Meat of bovine animals, frozenMeat of bovine animals, frozen 18.5%
Soya beans, whether or not brokenSoya beans, whether or not broken 11.0%
Wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark...Wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark or sapwood, or roughly squared (excl. rough-cut wood for walking sticks, umbrellas, tool shafts and the like; wood in the form of railway sleepers; wood cut into boards or beams, etc.) 9.9%
Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added...Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter 6.8%
RiceRice 6.7%
See More Products 47.1%
7.6 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 9.0%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 3.3%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...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) 3.3%
Insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides...Insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides, anti-sprouting products and plant-growth regulators, disinfectants and similar products, put up for retail sale or as preparations or articles, e.g. sulphur-treated bands, wicks and candles, and fly-papers 2.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...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) 2.0%
See More Products 80.2%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.


Main Services

6.4 bn USD of services exported in 2018
3.7 bn USD of services imported in 2018

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: January 2023

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