Gabon has sustained a considerable surplus in its foreign trade, even through periods of quite marked fluctuations in petroleum prices, because the import demand of its small population has remained relatively modest. Exports are normally 2 to 3 times the value of imports and most investment spending is directed toward generating increased earnings from the export of petroleum, timber, and manganese. In 1999, exports stood at US$2.4 billion, while imports were US$1.2 billion.
The main export markets in 1998 were the United States (68 percent), China (9 percent), France (8 percent),
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Gabon|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
and Japan (3 percent). Imports come mostly from France (39 percent), the United States (6 percent), and the Netherlands (5 percent). Despite high per capita income levels and the foreign investments its petroleum sector attracts, Gabon receives a significant amount of aid (US$38 per capita in 1998). This has helped to support both the budget and balance of payments .
While Gabon has traditionally enjoyed a trade surplus , it has also tended to have a balance of payments deficit. This deficit is a result of high outflows on interest payments on the foreign debt and on remittances on profits and dividends by the petroleum industry. Foreign debt was US$4.213 billion in 1996. However, high per capita GDP and a poor record of compliance with commitments to the IMF mean that Gabon is not a priority candidate for debt relief .