Economics

Foreign Exchange and Gold Reserves By Country

The foreign exchange and gold reserves are means that allow a country to repay its debts of foreign obligations while also strengthening its domestic currency. These countries hold the largest amount of such reserves.

When we talk about foreign exchange reserves, we refer to a certain currency held by a government in numerous quantities to be used for particular trade purposes in global transactions. The primary foreign exchange currencies are the US dollar and the euro (the official currencies of the United States of America and of the Eurozone, respectively). Still, for different security and economic purposes, foreign exchange reserves can also be comprised of British Pounds Sterling, the Japanese Yen, and the Swiss Franc, among others. Foreign exchange reserves can also used to defend local currencies from detrimental fiscal pressures. Currently, around two-thirds of the world’s reserves of foreign currency are held in Asia, particularly among the reserves of China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

The Importance of these Reserves

The gold reserves of a country are also very important for the security of its economy. This is due in large part to gold’s limited nature (e.g. it can’t be artificially produced), so the value of gold doesn’t follow the same pattern as the value of foreign exchange reserves. Therefore, the reserves of foreign exchange and gold held together by a country are much more stable than the reserves of gold or the reserves of foreign exchange held separately, as the reserves of gold can be used to fund liquidity emergencies or used as assistance to complement foreign exchange interventions. Due to such reserves’ importance in the global financial sectors, we have analyzed the countries with the largest foreign exchange and gold reserves.

China

China boasts the largest foreign exchange and gold reserves in the world, with $3,869,000,000,000, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. China is currently the second-largest economy in the world, but still remains classified as a developing country, with incomplete market reforms and a relatively low income per capita. The prevalence of poverty is another issue in China, with the country being ranked among the worst in the world for having the second largest number of poor. China’s recent rapid economic growth didn’t bring wealth to all, and rather high inequality among the population, environmental sustainability challenges due to rapid urbanization, and external perceptions are all challenges to be overcome by the Chinese moving forward. Besides, China also has to better confront the migration of its labor force as well as the demographic pressures related to an increasingly older population.

Japan

Japan, with foreign exchange and gold reserves of $1,261,000,000,000, is the third-largest economy in the world. The island nation also plays considerable role on the scene of the international financial community. In fact, Japan is one of the major aid donors and a primary source of global capital and credit.

Saudi Arabia

With its oil-based economy and strong governmental control over economic activities, Saudi Arabia has the third-largest reserves of foreign exchange and gold, totaling $732,400,000,000. The country possesses 16% of the world’s petroleum reserves and is ranked as one of the largest exporters of petroleum. In order to diversify the Saudi economy, the government is encouraging growth in the private sector, emphasizing telecommunications, power generation, petrochemical sectors, and natural gas exploration. One of the main issues of the country is the low education levels that lead to a less skilled labor force, which is exactly what the private sector needs. This has led to the country’s struggles to reduce unemployment among its youth population, just as more than 6 million foreign workers play important roles within the country’s economy.

Important, Yet Limited, Indicators

Switzerland, with $545,500,000,000, and Taiwan, with $423,900,000,000, round out our list of top 5 countries with the largest foreign exchanges and gold reserves in the world. As many will note, it takes much more than foreign exchange and gold reserves to guarantee the wealth of the society. For example, this can overlook important factors such as income inequality and cost of living, and our leaders may in fact receive their rankings in large part due to their handling of finances for individuals, businesses, and governments of other countries, and thus much of the wealth indicated actually lies ‘offshore’. Indeed, these countries typically do lead the world in international banking as well. Still, these financial indicators serve as fairly effective metrics of wealth comparison between nations regardless.

Foreign Exchange and Gold Reserves By Country

RankCountryForeign and Gold Reserves (USD)
1China$3,869,000,000,000
2Japan$1,261,000,000,000
3Saudi Arabia$732,400,000,000
4Switzerland$545,500,000,000
5Taiwan$423,900,000,000
6Russia$385,500,000,000
7Korea, South$363,600,000,000
8Brazil$363,600,000,000
9Hong Kong$328,500,000,000
10India$322,800,000,000
11Singapore$256,900,000,000
12Mexico$195,900,000,000
13Germany$192,800,000,000
14Algeria$179,900,000,000
15Thailand$157,100,000,000
16France$143,500,000,000
17Italy$142,200,000,000
18United States$130,100,000,000
19Turkey$127,300,000,000
20Malaysia$115,900,000,000
21Indonesia$111,900,000,000
22Iran$109,000,000,000
23United Kingdom$107,700,000,000
24Poland$100,400,000,000
25Libya$89,250,000,000

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