Romania ends 2023 with new record trade gap in December

Romania ends 2023 with new record trade gap in December

Romania’s trade deficit narrowed by 15% y/y to EUR 28.9 billion in 2023, and the gap-to-GDP ratio narrowed from 11.9% in 2022 (the widest value in the past decade) to 9.1% in 2023 (preliminary estimate), according to data published by the statistics office INS.

But December showed a different picture: the widest trade gap (nominally) in the past decade as well (EUR 3.43 billion, +11% y/y).

Whether the sudden deterioration of Romania’s external balance in December heralds a change in trends will be shown in the coming months. 

But it is already clear that the improvement in the trade balance last year was mainly the result of thinner trade with crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. The exports of mineral fuels contracted by 29% y/y while the imports shrunk by 32.5% y/y. The 8.9% lower imports of chemical products (where Romania posts a massive trade gap) also contributed. 

Another visible trend not challenged by foreign trade in December refers to the stagnation demonstrated by the total exports. The 1.3% y/y advance in exports (to EUR 93.1 billion in 2023) may partly reflect the lower price of commodities – but the export-to-GDP ratio dropped to 29% in 2023 from 32% in 2022. 

The ratio is the lowest since the COVID-19 crisis hindered foreign trade globally. The weakness demonstrated by Romania’s exports rather reflects the industrial slowdown in the country’s main trade partners, which is also visible in the industrial slowdown at home. Romania’s manufacturing output in 12 months to November 2023 (latest data available) contracted by 4.8% y/y.

Romania’s imports contracted nominally by 3.2% y/y to EUR 122 billion in 2023. Lower energy prices, subdued industrial activity, and softer demand for consumption have all contributed.

In December, Romania’s exports contracted 8.3% y/y to EUR 6.1 billion, while the imports contracted by only 2.2% y/y to EUR 9.6 billion. The deficit thus widened by 11% y/y to EUR 3.4 billion.

iulian@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Andreykuzmin/Dreamstime.com)

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