France is the largest trade and investment partner for the CAR and supplies 35 percent of its imports. French companies have invested in most major local industries as well as in banking and telecommunications services. Other European countries, particularly the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Spain, import many of CAR's exports. Within Africa, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon are major trading partners, while trade with neighboring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria is probably far higher than official estimates because much of it evades customs.
The CAR generally has a trade deficit because it imports more than it is able to export, although the 2000 figures registered a surplus, with US$166 million in exports against US$154 million in imports. Export revenues
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Central African Republic|
|SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
are dependent on diamond production levels, but these are difficult to estimate because most of the diamond trade goes unrecorded by customs agents. Exports, especially of diamonds, coffee, cotton, and timber, rose after the 1994 devaluation of Central Africa's currency, but were later affected by political unrest in 1996 and 1997. The most important imports include petroleum products, machinery, and different consumer goods, which became more costly to purchase after the currency was devalued.