Venezuela 10 years ago in 2008. Then 31st richest country in the world

Flamboyant President Hugo Chavez attracted most of the headlines involving Venezuela in 2008. Yet as a strong exporting nation with a healthy trade surplus, Venezuela emerged as an oil-rich economy that generated a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at US$319.4 billion then. That statistic made the Latin American country the world’s 31st richest country.

With a population of 26.8 million Venezuelans who enjoyed an average GDP of $13,500 per person in 2007, Venezuela placed 82nd in terms of GDP per capita among all other nations.

As the world’s 38th biggest exporter, Venezuela shipped $93.5 billion worth of exports in 2008. Petroleum products are Venezuela’s leading exports, which also include aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products and basic manufactured goods. Based on 2008 statistics, Venezuela’s largest export clients were the United States (41.2%), Netherlands Antilles (7.9%) and China (4.9%).

According to the CIA World Factbook, Venezuela imported $48.1 billion worth of foreign goods last year. Raw materials, machinery, transport equipment and construction materials represent major commodities imported into Venezuela. Leading suppliers to Venezuela were the United States (24.4%), Colombia (13.9%), Brazil (9.6%), China (6.5%), Mexico (5.3%) and Panama (5.1%).

In total, Venezuela’s international trade amounted to $141.6 billion or 44.3% in relation to its overall GDP. This compares with roughly 25% for the U.S. and 60% for Canada.

Venezuelan Trade with the U.S.

Last year, Venezuelan exports to America fell 4% to $12.5 billion. Over that same period, Venezuela bought $5 billion worth of U.S. imports – an increase of 12.2%.

Therefore, Venezuela’s trade surplus with the U.S. came to $7.5 billion in 2008.

The lists below present the top 10 exports and imports that American and Venezuelan enterprises exchanged in 2008. The fastest-growing trade product categories are also shown.

Venezuela’s Top Exports to America

The top 4 exports from Venezuela to the U.S. are petroleum products that generated 57.4% of Venezuela’s total export shipments to America during 2008.

Crude oil … US$40.5 billion, up 34.8% from 2007 (34.8% of US imports from Venezuela)
Other petroleum products … $3.9 billion, down 12.9% (7.5%)
Liquified petroleum gases … $3.6 billion, up 55.3% (7.1%)
Fuel oil … $912.3 million, down 26.1% (1.8%)
Aluminum … $554.4 million, up 187% (1.1%)
Semi-finished iron and steel mill products … $532.5 million, up 97.5% (1%)
Industrial organic chemicals … $315.6 million, up 79.5% (0.6%)
Fertilizers and pesticides … $258.7 million, up 5.1% (0.5%)
Coal and related fuels … $181 million, down 8% (0.4%)
Sulfur and non-metallic minerals … $133.9 million, up 680.4% (0.3%).

Fastest-Growing Venezuelan Exports to the U.S.

Excluding non-metallic minerals, iron and steel products and inorganic chemicals, the other 7 fastest-growing Venezuelan exports to America represent a wide range of products that garnered smaller dollar sales. Their growth rates do indicate great potential for Venezuela’s developing economy.

Numismatic collectible coins … US$1.2 million, up 718.4% from 2007
Sulfur and non-metallic minerals … $133.9 million, up 680.4%
Green coffee … $15.1 million, up 351.2%
Aluminum … $554.4 million, up 187%
Computer accessories and parts… $1.4 million, up 147.4%
Synthetics (cork, gums, rubbers, wood) … $1.8 million, up 108.1%
Semi-finished iron and steel mill products … $532.5 million, up 97.5%
Generators and transformers … $2.1 million, up 96.5%
Wine and related products … $1.2 million, up 84.6%
Industrial inorganic chemicals … $83.5 million, up 79.5%.

Venezuela’s Top Imports from America

Many of America’s top 10 exports to Venezuela support the South American country’s developing infrastructure while American wheat provides nourishment to the Venezuelan people. These 10 product categories account for 45.3% of total Venezuelan imports from the U.S.

Organic chemicals … US$923.7 million, up 36.3% from 2007 (7.3% of US exports to Venezuela)
Oilfield and drilling equipment … $658.1 million, up 49.5% (5.2%)
Other petroleum products … $620.9 million, down 3.8% (4.9%)
Other vehicle parts and accessories … $580.3 million, up 25.9% (4.6%)
Telecommunications equipment … $579.7 million, up 51.1% (4.6%)
Computer parts and accessories … $562 million, down 3% (4.5%)
Industrial engines … $508.3 million, down 3% (4%)
Other industrial machines … $452.9 million, up 34.4% (3.6%)
Excavating machinery … $441.3 million, up 27.1% (3.5%)
Wheat … $396 million, up 73.8% (3.1%).

Fastest-Growing Venezuelan Imports from the U.S.

Seven of the fastest-growing American exports to Venezuela were for food-related products. Percentage increases in these food exports ranges from 132.4% for U.S. dairy products and eggs to an amazing 11,290% for American soybean exports.

Soybeans … US$11.5 million, up 11,290%
Rice … $171.3 million, up 6,388%
Animal feeds … $237.4 million, up 819.7%
Logs and lumber … $2.5 million, up 445.5%
Vessels excluding scrap … $4.6 million, up 413.2%
Corn … $314.7 million, up 244.6%
Food oils and oilseeds … $144.3 million, up 242.9%
Artillery, guns, missiles and tanks … $6.8 million, up 177.5%
Vegetables … $22.7 million, up 170.3%
Dairy products and eggs… $13.3 million, up 132.4%.

Comparative Trade Advantages

During 2008, Venezuela exported $40.5 billion worth of crude oil to the U.S. with zero dependence on imported American crude oil.

These Venezuelan-American trade statistics show that Venezuela has comparative advantages over the U.S. in the crude petroleum trade between the two nations.

On the other hand, America exported $314.7 million worth of corn to Venezuela in 2008. The U.S. imported no Venezuelan corn during last year.

That the U.S. exported almost a third of a billion dollars worth of corn to the Land of Grace (Venezuela’s informal nickname) clearly shows that America has a comparative advantage in exporting corn to Venezuela.

Paul Linus