Since it became an independent state in 1993, Slovakia has had a trade deficit , meaning that it imports more than it exports. The former Czechoslovak state also consistently registered a negative trade balance between 1975 and its separation into the Czech and Slovak Republics. In 1999, it exported US$11.2 billion worth of goods and services while importing US$10.1 billion.
Slovakia's primary industrial exports are various manufactured goods, among them metal products and wood products, such as paper, as well as machinery and transport equipment. In 1998, these categories comprised 43 percent and 37 percent of all commodity exports, respectively. Other significant exported commodities were chemicals, which made up 9 percent, and raw materials, which amounted to 4 percent. Of the EU countries, Germany and Austria are the primary consumers of Slovak exports (at 29 and 7 percent of exports, respectively), but the Czech Republic (with 20 percent) also consumes a significant volume of Slovak products.
Some 40 percent of all of Slovakia's imports for 1998 were classified as machinery and transport equipment. Other imports included intermediate and miscellaneous manufactured goods, which comprised 28 percent of imports, chemicals (11 percent), and fuels (11 percent), although increasing fuel demand makes this a rapidly-growing import sector. The primary sources of imports from EU countries are Germany (26 percent) and Italy (6 percent), with the Czech Republic (18 percent) and Russia (10 percent) also serving as important importers.
In the early 1990s, the Czechoslovak state made a concentrated effort to shift trade away from the former Soviet Union and former Soviet Bloc countries and to the European Union and the United States. In contrast to the previous Slovakian government, the government elected in 1998 began to actively encourage this shift in an effort to improve the country's chances for entry into the European Union. Trading patterns now show increased volume in trade with the European Union and the United States and decreased volume with other eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union. As one result of this shift, trade with the Czech Republic has been in decline, in spite of a favorable customs union between the 2 countries. The Czech Republic made up 39 percent of Slovakia's foreign trade turnover in 1993, but, by 1999, it was about half that (18 percent). Both countries have instead been registering increased trade with the European Union, which now accounts for approximately 56 percent of Slovakia's foreign trade.