July 01, 2005

Unusual Imports

Slotted between Belgium and Switzerland, Russia currently ranks as America’s 24th largest trading partner. It is hardly a significant ranking. In 2004, the U.S. imported just under $12 billion in goods and services from Russia, or, put another way, less than 3% of what the U.S. imported from its largest trading partner, Canada. Thus, on the surface, Russia and the U.S. would seem to have a rather puny trading relationship.

But things are always more complex below the surface. Consider that, in 2003, according to the World Trade Organization, 7% of all Russian exports went to the U.S. (in return, Russia gets about 5% of its imports from the U.S.). Consider also that, from 2003 to 2004, American import of Russian goods and services increased by 26%, and that they have essentially doubled over the last five years. Granted, most of this change is due to oil imports, which have in recent years been on a very steep trajectory. According to Department of Energy Data, in February 2004, the U.S. was daily importing 11,000 barrels of crude oil and 184,000 barrels of petroleum from Russia. By February 2005, those daily figures had increased by 2500% and 149%, respectively (to 288,000 and 458,000 barrels per day). As a result, today Russia is America’s eighth largest supplier of foreign oil, falling into the second tier of oil suppliers (along with Iraq, Algeria, Angola, Ecuador and the UK), behind the giants (Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria).


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