International trade plays a significant role in the country's economy. Total trade in 2000 reached an estimated US$1.5 billion, equally split between imports and exports. In 2000, the country registered a small trade surplus of US$17 million. Main export items were aluminum (constituting roughly 40 percent of export earnings), electricity (19 percent), and cotton fiber (18 percent). From 1929 to 1991, Tajikistan was able to trade freely with the other Soviet republics. During that time, Tajikistan exported its minerals, cotton, and aluminum (starting in 1974) to the rest of the Soviet Union in return for consumer goods , grain, fuel, and technology. During the Soviet period, however, Tajikistan consistently registered a trade deficit and regularly received union budgetary transfers from the central government. Such budgetary assistance during the Soviet era constituted as much as 23 percent of Tajikistan's GDP.
Independence in 1991 broke much of the trade and government ties with the former USSR. Since then, most exports have gone to countries outside of the CIS. Exports to the CIS countries have been primarily electricity to Uzbekistan and vegetables and raw tobacco to Russia. The major destinations of exports with their corresponding percentage of the total value of exports are: Uzbekistan 37 percent, Liechtenstein 26 percent, Russia 16 percent, and Kazakhstan 6 percent (1997 data). The origin of most imports, however, is still the CIS. For example, the vast majority of imported electricity, natural gas, and oil are from Uzbekistan and Russia. Most grain imports are still from Kazakhstan, though as much as 100,000 tons/year of wheat and other foodstuffs are imported from western Europe and the United States as food aid. Tajikistan also has imported large amounts of alumina, the raw component needed for the production of aluminum, from Ukraine. The major sources of imports with their corresponding percentage of total value
|Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Tajikistan|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).|
of imports are: Netherlands 32 percent, Uzbekistan 29 percent, Switzerland 20 percent, and Russia 9 percent (1997 data). Government tariffs stand at around 8 percent. Based on international standards, this is considered a liberal trade regime.