Austria depends heavily on foreign trade. During the Cold War, the government consistently maintained strong ties with the West while being careful to preserve the country's neutrality. In 1972, Austria achieved association with the EEC without encountering much Soviet opposition. Austria formerly had long-term bilateral trade agreements with CMEA nations, and played an important role as a mediator in East-West trade dealings. It applied for membership in 1989.
Austria's commodity trade pattern has changed significantly since the 1930s. Because of its increasing self-sufficiency in agricultural production, expansion in output of certain basic industries, and development of new industries, Austria is no longer as dependent as in pre-World War II years on imports of food and raw materials.
The rise in industrial capacity has resulted in an extensive rise in export volume, with finished and semi-finished goods accounting for well over 80% of the total export value. The major industry and export commodity in Austria is the automobile and its components, made up of plates and sheets of iron or steel, internal combustion engines and piston parts, motor vehicle parts and accessories, and complete passenger motor cars. These exports comprise a large portion (10.3%) of Austria's exports, while machinery and paper products continue to be important commodities (11.9% and 5.0%). Medicinal and pharmaceutical product exports are increasing, but are still low compared to those of the automobile industry (2.7%).
In 2000 Austria's imports were distributed among the following categories:
Approximately 63% of Austria's trade is with EU nations. Principal trading partners in 2000 (in millions of US dollars) were as follows: