Unlike most other Caribbean nations, Trinidad and Tobago does not suffer from a permanent trade deficit and frequently exports more than it imports. The main exports are oil and petroleum products. The deficit of US$600 million in 1998 was largely due to unusually high imports of machinery and other expensive goods for investment in heavy manufacturing. In 1999, the trade balance showed a surplus of US$63.6 million. In 1998, the United States was the main trading partner, accounting for 36.9 percent of exports. Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries took 29.4 percent of exports, mostly petroleum, while the European Union took 6.3 percent.
In terms of imports, the United States was again the major partner, supplying Trinidad and Tobago with 44.7 percent of its imports, including machinery, vehicles, and manufactured goods. Latin America was a major supplier of foods (18.9 percent of imports), and the European Union accounted for 13.7 percent.
Although the United Kingdom was its most important trading partner until the 1960s, Trinidad and Tobago is now increasingly diversified in its access to North and South American markets as well as being a major supplier of fuel and chemicals throughout the Caribbean.