Foreign trade turnover totaled US$12.5 billion in 2000, nearly the same as the previous year, but down 20 percent from 1998. Exports accounted for an estimated US$5.95 billion and imports US$6.55 billion. Some 60 percent of Belarus's international trade and 85 percent of its trade with the CIS were with Russia, making that country its main trading partner. Half of the trade with Russia
|Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Belarus|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).|
was in the form of barter deals. After the Russian financial crisis of August 1998, however, Belarusian exports to Russia shrank by about 17 percent and imports from Russia fell by 19 percent. Other CIS trading partners of Belarus were the Ukraine (11 percent of CIS trade), Kazakhstan (1.4 percent of CIS trade), and Moldova and Uzbekistan (1 percent each of CIS trade).
Main exports include vehicles (16 percent of total value of exports), machinery (13 percent), chemicals (13 percent), textiles (12 percent), and metal-ware (9 percent). In 1990, special priority was given to the development of bilateral links with various Russian regions. Exports to Russia in 1999 were 7 times higher than to any other country. Agricultural exports to Russia were primarily meat (12 percent of total), dairy products (21 percent), and eggs (7 percent). Nearly 90 percent of Belarusian meat and dairy exports went to Russia, in addition to 50 percent of potato, fruit, and vegetable exports. Exports to non-CIS countries decreased from 30 percent in early 1990 to less than 12 percent in 2000. Food and agricultural exports have increased, while machinery exports have decreased. Agricultural goods made up 8.2 percent of total trade in 2000 compared to 6.6 percent in 1996. Exports of meat products increased by 40 percent from 1996 to 2000, dairy products by 60 percent, eggs by more than 250 percent, and margarine by 440 percent.
Principal imports are energy (25 percent of total imports), machinery and equipment (16 percent), metals (13 percent), and food (11 percent). The main share (more than 50 percent) of food and agricultural imports comes from non-CIS countries. Another 25 to 30 percent of such products are imported from Russia. In 1997 the volume of agricultural imports was the highest it had been in years, at US$1.12 billion, and the average annual import of agricultural commodities during 1996-2000 was equivalent to US$929.3 million. The import structure changed after 1991 with some traditionally exported items such as meat, animal fats, and margarine being imported from abroad.
Belarus has had a trade deficit since 1995. The trade balance with Russia, however, has traditionally been positive. Exports to Russia exceeded imports by more than 200 percent in 2000. In the same year, the trade deficit with non-CIS countries amounted to US$433 million. During the 1996-2000 period, goods supplied by non-CIS countries were cheaper than items imported from Russia, except dairy products and grain. Vegetables, fruits, vegetable oil, margarine, and pasta imported from non-CIS countries were more than 200 percent cheaper; tea and candies were over 500 percent cheaper; meat products were 50 percent cheaper; fish was 30 percent cheaper; and sugar was 40 percent less expensive.