Under communism, the Belorussian SSR had net industrial and agricultural export surpluses within the Soviet Union until 1990, thanks to the relatively high productivity of the Belarusian labor force. Belarus shipped trucks, tractors, tractor trailers, elevators, lathes, bearings, electric motors, computer equipment, synthetic yarns and fibers, tires, linoleum, flax, textiles, carpets, potatoes, meat, dairy products, eggs, flour, and various consumer goods to the other republics.
Apart from Belarus's energy situation, little had changed in the direction of independent Belarus's trade from its previous centralized planning system. In 1994 Belarus's major trading partners were still former Soviet republics (mainly Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Lithuania, and Latvia), which accounted for 93 percent of its exports. Exports to these countries totaled approximately US$2.5 billion, a decrease of 36 percent by volume over the previous year. Exports included gasoline (198,000 tons), diesel fuel (147,000 tons), meat and meat products (53,000 tons), milk and milk products (256,000 tons), refrigerators, tractors, and trucks. Belarus had a trade deficit with CIS countries amounting to US$614 million in 1994.
Belarus's main non-CIS trading partners in 1994 were Germany (21 percent of non-CIS trade), Poland (9 percent), the United States (7 percent), Switzerland (4 percent), Austria (4 percent), Italy (3 percent), the Netherlands (3 percent), Hungary (3 percent), China (3 percent), Brazil (3 percent), Britain (2 percent), and Lithuania (2 percent). Exports to non-CIS countries consisted mainly of energy products and heavy machinery. Belarus had a trade surplus of US$434 million with non-CIS countries in 1994.
After independence and continuing into 1995, Belarus's trade deteriorated because import prices for energy and for raw materials began to rise to world market levels, and demand for the country's exports by its major trading partners (especially Ukraine and Russia) declined. Payment problems within the former Soviet Union made the situation worse, and limited access to foreign financing caused the domestic economy to decline by further decreasing the volume of trade.
Restrictions on export quantities, imposed by the new government to prevent low-cost Belarusian goods from being sold abroad in large quantities to the detriment of the Belarusian consumer, were relaxed in March 1994, and only certain goods continued to be restricted: oil and gas, electricity, fertilizers, timber and wood products, nonferrous metals, cereals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and leather. Exports of precious metals and gems had to be licensed by the State Committee on Precious Metals and Precious Stones, and an export ban applied to certain medicinal herbs, animals, and some artworks and antiques. An agreement between Belarus and the EU set export quotas on textiles.
As part of Belarus's pursuit of economic and monetary integration with Russia, interstate trade regulations and taxation were harmonized with those of Russia, and most export and import fees on mutual trade with Russia were abolished by June 1, 1994. In May 1995, Belarus and Russia eliminated customs checkpoints along their joint border.
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