An external debt of $2.6 billion in 1998 resulted in debt servicing that rose 38.5% from 1997 to 1998, causing a leap in the balance of payments deficit. External trade increased in the late 1990s, due to the creation of private exchange offices and the liberalization of exchange systems. Foreign investment began to resume as well. The country's outstanding foreign debt in 2000 was estimated at 220% of GDP, but due to debt cancellation and rescheduling, debt service payment problems were somewhat alleviated. Mauritania's external debt had declined to $1.6 billion by 2000. In the same year, Mauritania qualified for $1.1 billion in debt service relief from the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in 2001 it received strong support from donor and lending countries. In 2003, the IMF approved a three-year $8.8 million loan to the country.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Mauritania's exports was $359 million while imports totaled $335 million resulting in a trade surplus of $24 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that in 1998 Mauritania had exports of goods totaling $359 million and imports totaling $319 million. The services credit totaled $34 million and debit $153 million. The following table summarizes Mauritania's balance of payments as reported by the IMF for 1998 in millions of US dollars.
|Balance on goods||40|
|Balance on services||-119|
|Balance on income||-32|
|Direct investment abroad||…|
|Direct investment in Mauritania||0|
|Portfolio investment assets||…|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||-0|
|Other investment assets||190|
|Other investment liabilities||-216|
|Net Errors and Omissions||-8|
|Reserves and Related Items||-43|