Romania’s trade gap shrinks on lower industrial activity

Romania’s trade gap shrinks on lower industrial activity
/ bne IntelliNews
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest April 11, 2023

Romania’s trade deficit in the first two months of this year narrowed by 5.3% compared to the same period last year, to €4.4bn, amid a combination of lower oil prices, lower imports of natural gas (after the buffers had been filled in late 2022) and subdued industrial activity.

The figures send a negative message (subdued economic activity) rather than heralding a more sustainable external balance. 

Romania: trade with goods [€mn]
  2M22 2M23 % 2M23 y/y 2M23   2M22 2M23 % 2M23 y/y 2M23   2M22 2M23
TOTAL 13,793 15,035 100.0 9.0   18,424 19,419 100.0 5.4   -4,631 -4,385
Chemicals 698 770 5.1 10.3   2,975 2,832 14.6 -4.8   -2,276 -2,061
Food & LiveAnimals 1,139 1,055 7.0 -7.4   1,415 1,810 9.3 27.9   -276 -755
MineralFuels& 678 1,039 6.9 53.2   1,909 1,596 8.2 -16.4   -1,231 -557
Transport Means 5,995 6,643 44.2 10.8   6,055 6,933 35.7 14.5   -60 -291
Other 5,282 5,528 36.8 4.6   6,070 6,248 32.2 2.9   -788 -721
Source: INS                        

When it comes to food (food and live animals), however, the deficit nearly tripled to €755mn while the net import of transport means (automobiles, but also public transport means) quadrupled to €291mn.

On the upside, the net import of chemicals – the main contributor to Romania’s trade deficit – eased by 9.4% y/y to €2.1bn.

The net imports of mineral fuels (natural gas included) and petroleum products plunged even more, from €1.2bn to €557mn. 

Romania’s trade gap (goods) is the largest, in absolute terms, among those of the Central and East European countries, but the deficit-to-GDP ratio is not.

The country’s €34.1bn deficit in 2022 accounted for 11.9% of GDP, less than Latvia’s and Lithuania’s and not far from Estonia’s 10%.

Croatia leads with a deep gap of 26.8% of GDP. However, that is balanced by substantial exports of services (tourism), which is not the case in Romania.

Last year may not be the best benchmark for assessing countries’ external balance, though. The balance of many countries was deeply hit by the energy prices and substantial expenses dedicated to building up natural gas and oil buffers (partly not used during the period).

The region’s non-consolidated trade gap accounted for 5.9% of GDP in 2022, up from 1.1% of GDP in 2019. Poland and Hungary moving from a (small) surplus to a significant deficit made the biggest impact, besides Romania. The Czech Republic and Slovenia are the only countries that still posted a trade surplus in 2022.