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Central/Eastern Europe: Exports To U.S. Continue To Grow

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 19 November (RFE/RL) -- The nations of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia are continuing to sell more goods to the United States.

The latest U.S. Commerce Department figures released Wednesday show that American purchases from the entire region rose to $8.139 billion in the first nine months of 1998, a 30.5 percent increase over the same period last year.

But while the totals were up, a hand-full of nations in the region -- three in Central Asia, two Baltic's and one Central European -- saw their exports to the U.S. decline from last year.

Total two-way trade between the U.S. and all the countries of the region totaled $14.129 billion, a more than 17 percent increase over last year. That made the U.S. balance of trade with the region continue to favor U.S. purchases from the region over sales there.

Russia continued to be the leading exporter to the U.S. in the region, with sales to the U.S. so far this year at $4.338 billion, a nearly 39 percent increase compared to 1997. U.S. exports to Russia were far below that, totaling $2.953 billion in the first nine months of 1998.

The products Moscow is selling to the U.S. have shifted from last year's heavy emphasis on food and beverages to dramatic increases in the sales of fuels, chemicals and bulk commodities. Russian sales of food and beverages fell markedly from 1997 to 1998.

Sales of Russian manufactured goods remained about the same.

Total export and import trade between the U.S. and all the former Soviet republics taken together rose to $9.427 billion, nearly 23 percent over the same nine months of 1997. But when the other former Soviet states are separated from Russia, total trade with the U.S. in the January-September, 1998 period declined slightly to $2.135 billion or 1.8 percent below the previous year.

The decline, however, reflected reduced purchases from the U.S. Sales to the U.S. by the other former Soviet states rose to $1.005 billion, a 23.5 percent increase over the same period of 1997.

However, several countries broke the pattern. Kyrgyzstan, which only sold $2 million worth of products to the U.S. last year in this time period, saw its sales drop 85 percent so far this year to just $300,000. Latvia's exports to the U.S. fell 45.8 percent to $76.9 million while Lithuania's exports to American fell just 2.3 percent to slightly over $64 million.

Turkmenistan saw its sales to the U.S. fall nearly 35 percent (to $1.5 million worth) while Uzbekistan's exports to the U.S. were down over 34 percent to just above $25 million.

The non-Soviet countries of Eastern Europe, excluding Hungary and Poland, saw their total trade with the U.S. rise to $2.012 billion in the first three-quarters of 1998, 11 percent above 1997. Their sales to the U.S rose 10 percent to $1.118 billion.

However, Slovakia recorded a slight 0.2 percent fall in its exports to the U.S. (at $134 million for the first nine months of 1998) while Romania's exports to the U.S. were down just a few dollars at $329.6 million.

This was the first period to include the month following the Russian financial crisis, but experts say it's too early to see what, if any long-term effects, will eventually show up in the U.S. trade figures.