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The East: Regional Exports To U.S. Increase Significantly

Washington, 19 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia recorded a significant 35.5 percent increase in their exports sold to the United States in the first six months of 1998.

The former communist nations sold a record $9.5 billion worth of goods in the first half of the year, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department yesterday.

The department's Chief Economist, Lee Price, says the increase was primarily because of a robust U.S. economy. "Vigorous job and real income growth have spurred consumption" in the United States, Price told reporters, providing a market for even more imports from other countries.

The Asian financial crisis accounted for an increase in exports from that region into the United States. The former communist countries in transition as a group recorded a larger rise compared to the same period in 1997.

Russia led the region, showing a 49 percent increase in the amount of goods it sold to the United States in the first half of the year. Russian sales to the United States totaled $2.8 billion.

Russia also increased the amount of American goods it imported by 41 percent to $2.1 billion. Still, the trade balance was in Russia's favor, with the United States showing a $698 million deficit for the period.

The balance was the other way around for the rest of the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union and its aegis. They bought $155 million more from the United States than they sold there. Still, the balance improved. As a group these countries increased their sales to the United States by 13 percent, topping $594 million, while reducing United States imports by 18 percent to $749 million.

The United States doesn't break down the trade figures by country in the first release, except for a few large nations like Russia, giving them mostly by regional groupings.

The rest of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which were not part of the former Soviet Union also increased their exports to the United States in the first half of the year. These rose 25 percent to $9.5 billion. The region also reduced its purchases of American imports to $676 million, a 9 percent decrease compared to a year earlier. This gave the East and Central European region a $60 million trade surplus for the first six months.

It was a major change from the picture in the first half of 1997, when the United States still had a trade surplus with all the nations in the region of around $92 million. The first half of this year switched that balance, with the nations of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia now showing a total trade surplus of $958 million with the United States.

Overall, the region's exports to the United States, by value, are heaviest in manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, mineral fuels, food and lives animals, and silver and platinum.

Worldwide, the United States continued to import more goods and services than it exported in the first six months, with its trade deficit totaling $78.8 billion. Total American trade with the rest of the world was just over $1 trillion.

U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley said the American economy is healthy, and that employment opportunities, the incomes of workers and investment activity by businesses are all growing vigorously. In fact, he said, except for a notable slowing of U.S. exports to Asia -- because of the financial crisis there -- U.S. trade grew faster than the overall American economy.