Washington, 20 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. trade with all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union rose 11.8 percent in 1996 compared to 1995, totaling $14.2 billion.
But the Department of Commerce statistics released Wednesday show that exports of these nations to the United States fell slightly in 1996 to $6.9 billion.
More significantly, while Russian-U.S. bilateral trade rose less than one percent in 1996 to 6,190 million dollars, American imports of Russian goods fell 11.6 percent compared to the year before, totaling $3.5 billion dollars.
Commerce department officials offered no comments on U.S. trade with the nations of the region, but officials at the recent meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission praised the fact that trade between the two countries was more balanced.
Last year, the United States imported nearly twice what it sold to Russia and American trade officials had been hoping the exchange of goods could be more balanced.
The United States has a huge trade deficit -- the value of the products and services it imports from abroad compared to the value of the goods and services it sells internationally -- and it is a popular political point to complain about the trade deficit.
For 1996, the U.S. says it imported $114 billion more in foreign goods and services than it sold abroad, a 30 percent increase over 1995. Total U.S. trade in 1996 amounted to $1.7 billion dollars.
While Russian exports to the United States were down in 1996, exports from the other nations of the former Soviet Union to the United States rose more than 27 percent, totaling $1.1 billion. America's total bilateral trade with those countries rose by 53 percent in 1996 compared to the previous year. The 1996 trade was $2.8 billion.
Experts point out that this is more a reflection of other ex-USSR countries just beginning to develop their export-oriented industries than of any dramatic change in trade patterns. It also reflects the pace of the economic transition in most of those nations.
The country by country trade figures are not immediately released by the Commerce Department.