Crude and refined petroleum oils as well as coal are major factors behind Russia’s highest trade surpluses by product. Netherlands and Turkey placed first and second respectively among trade partners with which Russia earned the highest positive trade balances.
Russia’s overall trade surplus incorporating all products and countries equaled US$211.2 billion in 2018, up 0.1% from the $210.9-billion surplus for 2011. Year over year, the $211.2 billion in black ink represents a 61.3% expansion from the $130.9-billion surplus that Russia earned during 2017.
To put Russia’s $211.2 billion trade surplus metric into perspective, the country’s total external debt encompassing both public and private red ink equaled -$482.4 billion at March 2019. Russia’s external debt is the equivalent of over twice the magnitude of its positive international trade balance.
Top Russian Trade Balances by Product and Country
The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $265.2 billion for Russia in its global trade during 2018. Metrics listed below highlight Russia’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners.
- Crude oil: US$129 billion (Down -24.9% since 2011)
- Processed petroleum oils: $77.2 billion (Down -12.1%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $16.6 billion (Up 51.5%)
- Wheat: $8.4 billion (Up 128.1%)
- Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished): $7.9 billion (Up 2.1%)
- Petroleum gases: $7.4 billion (Down -89.3%)
- Aluminum (unwrought): $5.3 billion (Down -22%)
- Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $4.9 billion (Up 31.6%)
- Sawn wood: $4.5 billion (Up 33.6%)
- Refined copper, unwrought alloys: $4.1 billion (Up 158.5%)
Six of Russia’s top 10 product surpluses rose in value from 2011 to 2018, led by refined copper and unwrought alloys (up 158.5%), wheat (up 128.1%) then coal including solid fuels made from coal (up 51.5%).
Positive trade balances for the remaining four products fell in value: petroleum gases (down -89.3%), crude oil (down -24.9%), raw aluminum (down -22%) then refined petroleum oils (down -12.1%).
The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$45.8 billion for Russia in international trade during 2018. Russia has demonstrated the severest competitive disadvantages in the exports and imports of the following commodities.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -US$8.9 billion (Up 17.1% since 2011)
- Automobile parts/accessories: -$8.4 billion (Down -1.1%)
- Medication mixes in dosage: -$7.3 billion (Down -30.8%)
- Cars: -$6 billion (Down -67%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$5.6 billion (Up 11.3%)
- Aluminum oxide/hydroxide: -$2.1 billion (Up 46.7%)
- Temperature-change machines: -$2.05 billion (Down -8.8%)
- Automobile bodies: -$1.8 billion (Down -37.8%)
- Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays): -$1.79 billion (Down -19.7%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): -$1.74 billion (Down -2.6%)
Russia’s red ink increased in value at the fastest pace for aluminum oxide and hydroxide (up 45.9% since 2011), phone system devices including smartphones (up 17.1%) then computers including optical readers (up 11.3%).
Three leading deficit categories that depreciated from 2011 to 2018 were cars (down -67%), automobile bodies (down -37.8%) and medication mixes in dosage (down -30.8%).
In 2018, Russia generated a surplus subtotal worth $126.3 billion with the following 10 trading partners.
- Netherlands: US$39.8 billion (Down -28.1% since 2011)
- Turkey: $17.1 billion (Up 96.1%)
- Poland: $11.4 billion (Down -21.7%)
- South Korea: $10.8 billion (Up 517%)
- Belarus: $9.6 billion (Down -7.5%)
- Germany: $8.6 billion (Reversing a -$14.7 billion deficit)
- Finland: $8 billion (Up 32.5%)
- Kazakhstan: $7.6 billion (Up 5%)
- Belgium: $6.7 billion (Up 129%)
- Egypt: $6.6 billion (Up 256.9%)
Growing at the fastest pace from 2011 to 2018 were Russian trade surpluses with South Korea (up 517%), Egypt (up 256.9%), Belgium (up 129%) and Turkey (up 96.1%). In addition, Russia reversed a -$14.7 billion deficit with Germany to post an $8.6 billion surplus in 2018.
Russia’s positive net exports retreated with three of its top 10 partners: Netherlands (down -28.1%), Poland (down -21.7%) and Belarus (down -7.5%).
Russia experienced a losing international trade relationship with 61 countries, islands or territories during 2018. The following 10 trade partners created a -$9.9 billion deficit subtotal in 2018 from exchanging exports and imports.
- France: -US$1.8 billion (Reversing a $1 billion surplus in 2011)
- Vietnam: -$1.2 billion (Up 63.8% from 2011)
- Thailand: -$1.1 billion (Reversing a $160.3 million surplus)
- Spain: -$1 billion (Reversing a $1.8 billion surplus)
- Ecuador: -$933 million (Down -16.6%)
- Chile: -$931.8 million (Up 139.1%)
- Paraguay: -$856.3 million (Up 79.9%)
- Indonesia: -$847.3 million (Down -10.9%)
- Ireland: -$650.8 million (Down -41.2%)
- Slovenia: -$583.8 million (Down -40%)
In percentage terms, Russia’s trade deficit with Chile grew the fastest via its 139.1% expansion from 2011 to 2018.
Russia trimmed the size of its negative trade balance with Ireland and Slovenia by the greatest percentage, whittling the red ink down by -41.2% and -40% respectively over the 7-year period.
Russia went from black ink during 2011 to red ink in 2018 trading with Spain, France and Thailand.
See also Russia’s Top 10 Imports, Russia Top Trading Partners, Russia’s Top 10 Exports and Russia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 25, 2019
The World Factbook, Field Listing: World, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 25, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 11, 2019
Trading Economics, Russia Total Gross External Debt , Summary. Accessed on August 11, 2019
Wikipedia, Economy of Russia. Accessed on February 25, 2019