Venezuela's imports increased 3-fold between 1975 and 2000. The increased importance of oil to the nation's economy has caused Venezuela to import more
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Venezuela|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
machinery, equipment, and food because enough resources cannot be devoted to producing those items at home. Imports have also increased because the availability of foreign currency resulting from the sale of oil has increased the demand for foreign goods in Venezuela. A large portion of Venezuela's imports and exports has traditionally been provided by the United States. In 1998, Venezuela exported US$9.157 billion of goods (52 percent of its exports) to the United States, with oil accounting for 57.6 percent of the total. Other exported goods included chemicals, iron and steel, and aluminum. The next most important export-trading partner for Venezuela was Colombia, which received 8.3 percent of Venezuela's exports, followed by Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles, and Brazil. Oil accounted for 45.6 percent of the total value of Venezuela's exports overall.
In 1998, Venezuela imported US$6.520 billion (44 percent of its imports) from the United States. The next most important import-trading partner was Colombia, from which it received 6.4 percent of its imports, followed by Japan, Italy, Germany, and Brazil. Machinery and transport equipment accounted for 53 percent of Venezuela's imports from the United States in 1998.
Because of fluctuations in the world market price of oil, the value of Venezuela's exports can vary significantly from year to year. In 1997, for example, when world oil prices fell by 33 percent, the value of Venezuela's exports declined from US$23.707 billion in 1997 to $17.564 billion in 1998, a fall of 25.9 percent. With oil prices rebounding in 2000, the value of exports rebounded to US$32.8 billion in 2000. Venezuela has also been running a negative balance of trade in services, as when Venezuelans take money out of the country by traveling abroad, or when they purchase foreign products, like automobiles, thereby subsidizing both the foreign manufacturer and the shipping companies that deliver the vehicle to them. In 1998, Venezuelans imported US$5.054 billion in services while exporting only US$1.457 billion. However, Venezuela's overall trade balance is positive. In 2000, that trade surplus reached US$18.1 billion, on imports of US$14.7 billion.
Venezuela has amassed foreign debt as a result of the government borrowing money abroad and individual Venezuelans investing their money overseas because of fears of political and economic instability. It has been estimated that Venezuelans have invested US$50 billion abroad. In 1990, the country's foreign debt was estimated at US$38 billion, which the government has tried to reduce by restructuring (changing the terms of the loan and reducing the interest rate it owes).