Since independence, Bangladesh has had a strongly negative trade balance. Imports steadily ran more than double the value of exports between 1971 and 1991. With a surge in export growth since 1991, the trade deficit has improved; imports exceeded exports by about 56% in 1996, and by 62% in 1997 as opposed to more than 120% in 1989/90. Trade relations with the United States remain excellent. As a result of successful export promotion measures undertaken by the government during the 1980s, exports of ready-made-garments and knitwear are now Bangladesh's leading earner of foreign exchange.
The garment and textile industry garners the highest percentage of Bangladesh's export commodities, including undergarments, women's and men's outerwear, leather, hats, and yarn (85%). At the mouth of the Ganges, fish and crustaceans are also harvested and exported (5.6%).
In 1998 Bangladesh's imports were distributed among the following categories:
Principal trading partners in 1998 (in millions of US dollars) were as follows:
|China (inc. Hong Kong)||106||1,125||-1,109|