With few natural resources, over the past several decades, Lebanon has relied heavily on imports. The value of imports in 1999 was US$5.7 billion, while exports totaled just US$866 million. Lebanon imports the majority of its goods from Europe—mostly Italy (12 percent), France (10 percent), and Germany (9 percent)—followed by the United States (9 percent). On the other hand, the majority of Lebanon's exports are sent to neighboring Arab Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia (12 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (10 percent), which are Lebanon's largest trade partners. Major exports are food, vegetables and fruits, followed by chemical products and jewelry.
Imports of foreign goods have usually amounted to 40-65 percent of the GDP. Lebanon's imports consist of fuel, electrical goods, and vehicles. Expenditures on imports rose dramatically in the post-civil war period, largely due to the need to import capital goods and high consumer spending on food, cars, and luxury items. The trend has reversed since 1999 due to the economic slowdown but is expected to rise again as the economy recovers.
Although the value of exports increased from US$544 million in 1994 to US$866 million in 1999, the substantial trade imbalance that Lebanon has endured over the years has meant that the country will continue to run a trade deficit which forces it to borrow heavily to pay for its consumption.