According to International Monetary Fund sources, because of the discovery of large oil fields, Syria's foreign trade volume has immensely increased over the last 3 decades. During this period, exports have grown from US$203 million in 1970 to US$4.8 billion in 2000, while imports have risen from US$360 million in 1970 to US$3.5 billion in 2000. Syria's foreign trade is highly dependent on its oil revenues and oil prices on the international markets. For the year 2000, the EIU reported that increasing oil prices have continued to boost export revenue and Syria recorded a surplus of more than US$1 billion for the first time since the Gulf War.
Syria's chief exports are petroleum, textiles, food, live animals, and manufactured goods which are exported to Germany (which received 21 percent of exports in 1999), Italy (12 percent), France (10 percent), Saudi Arabia (9 percent), and Turkey (8 percent). Syria's main import products are machinery, food and live animals, transport equipment, and chemicals. The country's main import partners include France (which purchased 11 percent of imports in 1999), Italy (8 percent), Germany (7 percent), Turkey (5 percent), and China (4 percent). Additionally, a large amount of trade (nearly US$200 million) with Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq goes unrecorded. It is estimated that these invisible flows favor Syria, as evidenced by the use of its military and political influence on Lebanon to create a common market between the 2 countries, from which Syria will benefit.
As of 2001, there were about 200 state-owned trading companies that enjoyed prohibitive tariff protection, overvalued exchange rates, and restrictions on private-sector competition. These state-run companies regulated most of Syria's exports. According to the Syrian Ministry
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Syria|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
of Economic and Foreign Trade statistics, in 1998 72 percent of exports were made by the public sector.