The story of India’s shifting trading partners and patterns

ByRajeev Jayaswal
May 31, 2022 01:01 PM IST

Here are three charts that explain India's trading partners in the years 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22: 

New Delhi: The United States (US) has been India’s top mercantile trade partner since 2018-19. Barring 2020-21, when China surpassed the US as India’s top trade partner mainly because of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and global supply chain disruptions, America is India’s biggest trade partner with the balance of trade in the favour of New Delhi.

In 2019-20 India US trade topped at $88.9 billion while China came number two at $81.9 billion. (Reuters) PREMIUM
In 2019-20 India US trade topped at $88.9 billion while China came number two at $81.9 billion. (Reuters)

The return of the US

According to the commerce ministry data, the India-US trade in 2021-22 crossed $151.84 billion compared to its bilateral trade with China at $146.08 billion in the financial year.

In 2020-21, the trade with the US dropped below China due to supply chain disruptions. While India’s bilateral trade with the US crossed $80.5 billion, trade with China was more at $86.4 billion, the official data showed.

In 2019-20 India-US trade topped at $88.9 billion while China came number two at $81.9 billion.

Data show that the US has been India’s top mercantile export destination in the last three financial years while China took the third position in two of the three financial years (2021-22 and 2019-20). In 2020-21, China had surpassed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at $21.19 billion because of low demand for goods from the UAE during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. That year, India’s exports to UAE was $16.7 billion.

Top trading partners, items

According to official data, India’s top five export destinations in 2021-22 include the US ($96.4 billion), UAE ($36 billion), China ($25.4 billion), Bangladesh ($21.25 billion) and Netherland ($16.99 billion).

Top five countries of import in the financial year are China ($120.69 billion), UAE ($56.95 billion), the US ($55.39 billion), Saudi Arabia ($45.82 billion) and Iraq ($42.4 billion).

India’s top five mercantile export items in 2021-22 are refined petroleum products ($88.75 billion), pearls, precious and semi-precious stones ($35.14 billion), iron and steel ($28.2 billion), drug formulations and biologicals ($23.9 billion), gold and other precious metal jewellery ($11.06 billion) and aluminium and its products ($3.12 billion).

The country's top five imports in 2021-22 are crude oil ($159.3 billion), petroleum products ($51.7 billion), gold ($46.16 billion), coal and coke ($41.78 billion), pearls, precious and semi-precious stones ($39.93 billion) and electronic components ($9.02 billion), according to official data.

The balance

While India’s mercantile exports showed an impressive 44.58% year-on-year growth in 2021-22 at $421.9 billion, the country has a huge trade deficit because of growing imports. India’s imports have jumped over 55.3% in 2021-22 at $612.6 billion that leaves a deficit of whopping about $191 billion in the year.

However, in services trade, India has a surplus. According to official data, India's services exports in 2021-22 showed a year-on-year growth of 23.42% at $254.35 billion. Imports grew by about 25% at around $147 billion giving a favourable trade balance of $107.4 billion.

In services exports (2021-22), India set a new record beating the previous high of $213.2 billion in 2019-20. Also, services exports hit an all-time monthly high of $26.9 billion in March 2022. Telecommunications, computer, and information services, other business services and transport are the top contributors in services exports in the financial year.

Chart 1 (2021-22) + Chart 2 (2020-21) + Chart 3 (2019-20):

Export: Top 5 countries 2021-2022 Import: Top 5 countries 2021-2022 
CountryExport in $ mnCountryImport in $ mn
United States96,449.28China1,20,696
United Arab Emirates36,048.37United Arab Emirates56,955
China25,390.67United States55,391
Bangladesh21,252.76Saudi Arabia45,818
The Netherlands16,997.18Iraq42,392
Total Trade (2021-2022)
(Import+Export) $ mn
United States: 1,51,840.28
China: 1,46,086.67
Export: Top 5 countries 2020-21 Import: Top 5 countries 2020-21 
CountryExport in $ mnCountryImport in $ mn
United States51,632.85China65,212
China21,188.72United States28,888
United Arab Emirates16,679.58United Arab Emirates26,624
Hong Kong10,162.40Switzerland18,231
Bangladesh 9,691.71Saudi Arabia16,167
Total Trade: 2020-21 
(Import+Export) $ mn
United States: 80,520.85
China: 86,400.72
Export: Top 5 countries (2019-20) Import: Top 5 countries (2019-20) 
CountryExport in $ mnCountryImport in $ mn
United States53,108.63China65,261
United Arab Emirates28,853.77United States35,821
China16,614.32United Arab Emirates30,266
Hong Kong10,967.12Saudi Arabia26,857
Total Trade 2019-20 
(Import+Export) $ mn
United States: 88,929.63
China: 81,875.32

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