For the first time since the mid-1990s, Russia overtook the EU as a trading partner of Armenia in the first half of this year, the Armenian official statistics show.
The National Statistical Service (NSS) announced this month that Russia accounted for 26.4% of foreign trade of Armenia in this period, compared with the share of 25.3% in the EU.
The NSS said that the Russian-Armenian trade increased by 12.4% to nearly $ 600 million thanks to a near doubling of Armenian exports to Russia. Trade of Armenia with the EU member states increased by less than 2%.
The EU has become the largest trade partner of Armenia a few years after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It has since been the major supplier of industrial equipment, cars and some of the South Caucasus countries consumer goods. Europe has also been the main destination for Armenian export products, such as base metals and refined diamonds.
In the late 1990s, the EU would hamper already about a third of trade in Armenia with the outside world. The NSS figures show that this proportion has remained largely unchanged in the next decade.
In contrast, the share of Russia in the Armenian foreign trade declined steadily, to finish at only 11.5% in 2004.
These business models began to change slowly in 2012 amid an increase in Armenian food exports to Russia and falling international price of copper and other nonferrous metals, the main source of export earnings of ‘Armenia. The controversial decision of President Serzh Sargsyan in 2013 to join the trade bloc led by Russia, instead of signing a free trade agreement reaching with the EU, seems to have only accelerated this trend.
The commercial importance of Russia to Armenia has continued to increase, even after a sharp depreciation of the Russian ruble has caused a 18% drop in trade between the two countries last year. The fall of the commerce of Armenia with the EU was even stronger.
According to the NSS, EU exports to Armenia collapsed by over 30% in 2015, reflecting a decrease in consumer spending in the country, which in turn was caused, in large measure, by lower remittances from Armenians working in Russia, hit by a recession.
The first half of 2016, Armenian exports to Russia jumped nearly 90% to $ 168 million. Alcoholic beverages, prepared food and fresh agricultural products constituted the bulk of these shipments.
Russia has always been the main export market for food processing and agriculture of Armenia. The accession of Armenia to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) clearly more ease their access to this huge market.
In comparison, exports of Armenian non-ferrous metals other than gold, fell by over 10% between January and June. Even so, exports for the first half of Armenia to the EU have increased by nearly 12% to $ 230 million, which means that the EU remains the largest export market despite falling behind Russia in the overall foreign trade of the country.
Claire © armenews.com