Lithuanian foreign trade statistics for the first eight months of 2002 showed a slowdown in export and import growth rates in year-on-year terms, and experts say this trend is likely to continue until foreign markets recover.
The Lithuanian Statistics Department on Oct. 11 released data showing that the country's exports grew 3.1 percent in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period in 2001, while imports rose by 11.8 percent. The respective growth rates were 20.8 percent and 13.4 percent a year ago.
"A lot will depend on a recovery in foreign markets - growth forecasts for the U.S. and Euro-zone economies have failed to materialize so far. Demand remains weak there, and that is certainly going to have a direct impact on our foreign trade," said Aneta Piasecka of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, a private think tank.
Lithuania's total export volumes reached 12.4 billion litas (3.6 billion euros) during the eight months of 2002, while imports totaled 17.8 billion litas. The country's foreign trade deficit came to 5.4 billion litas.
"The trends remain unchanged - both exports and imports are growing at slower rates compared with the same period in 2001. Foreign trade volumes fell in August and July, particularly with Russia, but that was due to the strengthening of the litas against the U.S. dollar, which has pushed up prices of Lithuanian products and has somewhat slowed down the growth of exports to the east," said Piasecka.
Over the year from August 2001 to August 2002, the country's exports grew by 4.6 percent, while imports were up 9.4 percent. In August exports fell by 0.8 percent compared with July, while imports registered an 11.9 percent drop.
In month-on-month terms, exports to Russia declined by 4.2 percent, while imports from the neighboring country were down 13.7 percent.
In the first eight months of this year, the United Kingdom was Lithuania's largest export partner, accounting for 15.7 percent of total exports, followed by Russia with 13.4 percent, Germany with 10.9 percent and Latvia with 9.4 percent.
Russia remained the top country in import rankings, accounting for 21.6 percent of total imports, followed by Germany with 17.8 percent, Poland with 4.7 percent and Italy with 4.5 percent.
The EU markets remain the main export destination for Lithuanian goods, accounting for 50.1 percent of total exports. Imports from the European Union account for 46.2 percent of the total import figure.
Exports to the C.I.S. markets made up 21.3 percent of total exports, while imports accounted for 25.9 percent.