November 2023
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Market update: Facts about Iraq at a glance

Iraq’s foreign trade: High surpluses in commodity trade

With 43 million inhabitants, Iraq is one of the three most populous countries in the Arab world, after Egypt and on a par with Algeria. Its population is expected to grow to 71 million by 2050. With 58% of the population younger than 25, the country has an enormously young and aspiring population.

Iraq’s GDP is expected to grow by 3.7% in 2021 and 10.5% in 2022. (IMF)

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the surplus in commodity trade will increase strongly due to the higher revenues from oil exports. EIU estimates the surplus in goods trade for 2021 at US$ 33 billion and for the following year 2022 even at US$ 45 billion.

Despite a deficit in the services balance (for example, US$ -13.8 billion in 2021), substantial surpluses of US$ 16.7 billion and US$ 23.7 billion are expected in the current account in 2021 and 2022, respectively. (GTAI, November 2021)

Double-digit growth: Facts on the Iraqi plastprintpack market

  • Since all plastics raw materials are imported, mainly from the Middle East, Asia and Europe, the Iraqi market has great potential for commodity exporters. Between 2007 and 2017, the import of plastic raw materials grew by 37% annually, from 9 kt to 210 kt, a plus of one thousand percent! The country's plastic consumption shows an annual growth of 29% over the same period. It has grown 16-fold from 15 kt in 2009 to 249 kt in 2018 and is estimated at 404 kt in 2022. (EUROMAP)
  • Between 2015 and 2019, Iraq’s imports of plastics technology increased with an annual growth rate of 16.7%, from € 21 million to € 39 million. (VDMA) This makes Iraq the third largest Arab importing country of such technology in the Middle East. Continuous growth is expected in the coming years.
  • Iraq is also an important buyer of printing & paper converting technology in the Arab Middle East. From 2017 to 2019, Iraq’s printing & paper technology imports increased by 30%, from € 5 to € 11 million. (VDMA)
  • Between 2015 and 2019, Iraq’s imports of packaging technology increased with an annual growth rate of 26%, from € 31 million to € 78 million. (VDMA) This makes Iraq the third largest Arab importing country of such technology in the Middle East. 

Economic data Iraq


  • 43 million (2022)
  • 58% younger than 25
  • Expected population by 2050: 71 million


  • one of the three most populous countries in the Arab world, after Egypt and on an equal footing with Algeria
  • ranks fourth globally of countries with the most natural resources
  • large deposits of crude oil, natural gas, phosphates and sulphur
  • economy based on the export of its natural resources and on agriculture

Currency reserves without gold (billion US$):

  • 2020: 59
  • 2021: 64
  • 2022: 92*


  • public investment programs improve infrastructure and offer chances for supply
  • oil and gas production to be enlarged
  • funding of large-scale projects state guaranteed
  • considerable market for capital and consumer goods
  • financial strength, young population


  • agrarian:  wheat,  barley,  rice,  vegetables, dates, cotton, cattle, sheep,  poultry
  • mineral: crude oil, natural gas, phosphates, sulphur

Iraq again generates continuously high trade surpluses

Foreign trade
Billion US$

Billion US$

General information Iraq

Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan). The country's official religion is Islam. Culturally, Iraq has a very rich heritage and celebrates the achievements of its past in pre-Islamic times and is known for its poets. Its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class as well as producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets.

Iraq in the 20th and 21st century

Modern Iraq dates back to 1920, when the British Mandate for Mesopotamia, joining three Ottoman vilayets, was created under the authority of the League of Nations.

A British-backed Kingdom was established in 1921 under Faisal I of Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown, and the Iraqi Republic created.

Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011.

Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic. The president is the head of state, the prime minister is the head of government, and the constitution provides for two deliberative bodies, the Council of Representatives and the Council of Union. The judiciary is free and independent of the executive and the legislature.

Iraq is considered an emerging middle power with a strategic location and a founding member of the United Nations, the OPEC as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF. Since its independence, Iraq's political history has been characterized by periods of significant economic and military growth, as well as periods of political and economic instability.

Market place Iraq

Iraq is characterised by great cultural, political and economic diversity, which can make an economic commitment in Iraq attractive and profitable. Iraq is essentially divided into the central Iraq with the capital Baghdad with its approximately 8 million inhabitants and the northern Iraqi autonomous region Kurdistan with the capital Erbil (860,000 inhabitants). Iraq is best known for its abundance of natural resources, especially oil exports.

At present, the Iraqi government is trying to lead its own economy away from its great dependence on oil and to do the same as the "pioneering nations" of the Gulf region in terms of diversification. At the same time, however, oil production is also to be expanded. In the areas of transport, IT and energy infrastructure as well as the oil and gas industry, there has been enormous interest in modernisation for many years.

International exporting companies can benefit from the current situation and demand in Iraq by entering and developing this growth market early and ahead of others

Source: German Liaison Office for Industry and Commerce in Iraq

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