Europe’s largest landlocked country, the Republic of Belarus shipped US$33.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -7.3% decline since 2014 but a 14.3% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, 82% of Belarusian exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 10.3% were sold to Asian importers. Belarus shipped 2.5% worth of its total exports to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Even smaller percentages went to importers in other continents (Africa, North America, Oceania).
Given the Belarusian population of 9.5 million people, its total $33.5 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $3,500 for every resident in the Eastern European country.
In macroeconomic terms, Belarus’ total exported goods represent 17.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($189.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 17.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 18.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Belarus’ total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Belarus also provided $8.7 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 4.6% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Unemployment in Belarus was 0.3% as of January 2019 down from 0.5% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Belarus Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Belarusian global shipments during 2018 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Belarus.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$8.5 billion (25.3% of total exports)
- Fertilizers: $3.2 billion (9.6%)
- Vehicles: $2.7 billion (7.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2 billion (6.1%)
- Wood: $1.4 billion (4.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $1.4 billion (4.2%)
- Iron, steel: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.1 billion (3.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1 billion (3.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $884.9 million (2.6%)
The top 10 exports from Belarus accounted for over two-thirds (69.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron or steel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 29.7% in value from 2017 to 2018. The second-fastest gainer was Belarus’ exported wood category via its 24.9% increase. Mineral fuels including oil appreciated by 22.6%, ahead of exported Belarusian fertilizers up 21.8%.
There were two declining top categories year over year, namely machinery including computers (down -6.8%) and dairy, eggs and honey (down -6.4%).
Drilling down to the more granular 4-digit HTS codes, the most valuable Belarusian exported good were refined petroleum oils (19.4% of total). In second place were potassic fertilizers (8.1%), trucks (3.9%), crude oil (2.4%), cheese including curd (also 2.4%), tractors (1.7%) then sawn wood (1.3%).
The following types of Belarusian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Fertilizers: US$3.1 billion (Up by 22% since 2017)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2 billion (Down by -6.5%)
- Wood: $1.2 billion (Up by 25.4%)
- Meat: $697.8 million (Up by 5.9%)
- Vehicles: $452.9 million (Down by -37.4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $302.5 million (Up by 3.3%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $302.2 million (Down by -0.04%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $101.7 million (Up by 332.4%)
- Glass: $99.5 million (Down by -0.2%)
- Manmade staple fibers: $81.4 million (Up by 5.9%)
Belarus has highly positive net exports in the international trade of fertilizers. In turn, these cashflows indicate Belarus’s strong competitive advantages under the fertilizers product category.
Overall Belarus incurred a -$4.7 billion trade deficit during 2018, down by -4.5% from -$5 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Belarus that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Belarus goods trail Belarusian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$2.6 billion (Down by -5.7% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$2.3 billion (Up by 25.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.5 billion (Up by 21.6%)
- Iron, steel: -$719.8 million (Up by 0.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$601.9 million (Up by 24.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$513.2 million (Down by -38.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$491.1 million (Down by -3.8%)
- Organic chemicals: -$341.5 million (Down by -12.9%)
- Oil seeds: -$324.5 million (Up by 150.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$323.1 million (Up by 15%)
Belarus has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels-related products category, particularly for crude oil and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Belarusian competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Belarus to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Belarusian Export Companies
Given that Belarus is an emerging economy, it should come as no surprise that no Belarusian corporation appears on the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list Belarusian export companies. Selected examples are shown below:
- BelAZ (haulage, earth-moving equipment)
- Belkamunmash (electric public transport vehicles)
- Belshina (pneumatic tires)
- Beltransgaz (natural gas)
- Byelorussian Steel Works (steel)
- JSC Defense Systems (air defense manufacturer)
- Minsk Automobile Plant (automobiles)
- Minsk Motorcycle (motorcycles)
- Minsk Tractor Works (tractors)
- Olivaria (brewery)
- TransAVIAexport Airlines (cargo airline)
- Velcom (mobile phones)
Minsk is the capital city of Belarus.
See also Belarus Top Trading Partners, European Union’s Top Trading Partners and Russia’s Top 10 Exports
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 18, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 29, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, Belarus. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Belarus. Accessed on March 18, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019