During the last decade of the 20th century, international trade was fully liberalized. The direction of Poland's trade has changed substantially as the result of the breakup of the Soviet bloc of countries. Today, Poland's major trading partners are located mostly in Western Europe and North America and not in the former
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Poland|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
Soviet bloc states. Prior to World War II, the main trading partner in both exports and imports was Germany, receiving 31.2 percent of Polish exports and providing 27.3 percent of imports in 1928. The second and the third trading partners were the United States and Great Britain.
Following World War II and the installation of the Soviet Union-controlled regime in Poland, trade flow patterns changed. In 1950, the Soviet Union was the largest importer of Polish goods (28.8 percent) and the largest exporter to Poland (24.3 percent). Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) were the other 2 most important trading partners. By 1990, the trade flow patterns continued to reflect the economic re-orientation of Poland. The 2 main trading partners were East Germany (20.1 percent and 25.1 percent of imports and exports, respectively) and the Soviet Union (19.8 percent and 15.3 percent of imports and exports, respectively).
After 1990, however, trade patterns changed dramatically. The Soviet Union peacefully disintegrated and was replaced by Russia and 14 other independent countries. By 1999, a re-unified Germany had become the major trading partner, taking 36.1 percent of Poland's exports and providing 25.2 percent of its imports. Other major markets for Polish exports were Italy (6.5 percent), the Netherlands (5.3 percent), France (4.8 percent), the United Kingdom (4.0 percent), and the Czech Republic (3.8 percent). Major importers to Poland in 1999 include Italy (9.4 percent), France (6.8 percent), Russia (5.8 percent), the United Kingdom (4.6 percent), and the Netherlands (3.7 percent).
Poland formed together with Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic a free trade area in the early 1990s and became a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, the main goal has been to gain access to the European Community (EC) market because of its size and the demand structure. Poland's agricultural products had particularly difficult access to EC markets because of the quota system imposed by the EU. An agreement between the 2 parties signed in September 2000 opened the trade in agricultural products and set the pace leading to full liberalization of agricultural trade between Poland and the EU within the next few years. It is expected that Poland will increase exports of milk and dairy products, pork, some fruits and vegetables, potato products, confections, and, perhaps, sugar, while increasing imports of poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, and processed foods.
Imports are associated with the rapid growth and direct foreign investment. Among some of the main types of goods imported to Poland are machinery and industrial equipment, electronics, cars and car parts, and construction materials. Oil and gas are large import items. Oil is imported from Russia and Middle Eastern countries, while gas is imported from Russia. Poland wants to import gas from Norway, but not until a pipeline link is constructed. In recent years Poland's appetite for imported goods exceeded exports. In 2000, the value of imports stood at US$42.7 billion while the value of exports stood at US$28.4 billion.