Special Report

Most Self-Sufficient Economies in the World

Cross-border trade is as old as civilization itself, but this commerce has broadened in modern times thanks to world-shrinking innovations in transport and logistics, as well as the expansion of free-trade agreements and other bilateral and regional pacts.

Virtually none of the world’s 193 United Nations member states, or other countries, territories and dependencies, are fully self-reliant, meaning they produce everything their populations need within their own borders. 

To find the most self-sufficient countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. used World Bank data to rank countries by the total value of imports as a percentage of gross domestic product. Data includes imports and exports as a percentage of GDP and in current U.S. dollars, GDP is also in current U.S. dollars, and annual growth of imports based on constant local currency that are based on constant 2015 prices then expressed in USD. All data is from the World Bank for the most recent year available.

Imports include all goods and services imported to a country. They include agricultural products, commodities, merchandise, freight services, banking, royalties, licensing fees, and other valuables. 

The countries on this list import goods and services valued at 21% or less of their GDP. However, exports vary widely, with some countries dealing with large trade deficits (imports larger than exports). While some countries on this list are economically prosperous and the low level of imports implies self-sufficiency, others are low-income countries. (These are the poorest countries in the world.)

Sudan, for example, a country still precariously recovering from decades of civil war, is almost completely self-reliant – its total trade activity with the rest of the world made up less than 1% of its GDP in 2020. Many of the country’s residents are engaged in subsistence farming.

Conversely, wealthy, highly developed, economically diverse countries can typically weather trade deficits. For example, the United States with its $21 trillion economy is considered among the most self-reliant in the world, even if the value of its imports made up more than 13% of its GDP in 2020 compared to about 10% for its exports that same year. (Find out if the U.S. ranks among countries where people have the highest average net incomes.)

Click here to see the most self sufficient economies in the world

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