While all members of the customs union grouping–Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–potentially stand to benefit from freer trade within the CIS, some of them should be more worried than others about the inconclusive results of their presidents’ meeting in Minsk. The May 24 meeting was aimed at reviving the customs union among CIS countries (Reuters, May 24). Unlike most other CIS countries, Belarus and Tajikistan depend heavily on trade within the CIS. Moreover, Tajikistan is the only CIS member whose reliance on exports to the CIS actually increased in 1999 with Tajik exports to the CIS reaching 45.7 percent of the country’s total exports compared to 34 percent in 1998. By contrast, exports to CIS countries accounted for only 14.7 percent of Russia’s total exports and 26.1 percent of Kazakhstan’s total exports in 1999, down from 18.9 percent and 39.9 percent in 1998, respectively.
Tajik exports consist almost entirely of three commodities: aluminum, electricity and cotton. Exports of raw aluminum typically account for between 40 and 50 percent of total exports; cotton and electricity each represent about 20 percent. Electric power accounts for more than half of Tajik exports to CIS countries, with Uzbekistan the largest recipient by far. Approximately 62 percent of Tajikistan’s CIS exports go to Uzbekistan; 24 percent to Russia.
The share of CIS imports as a percentage of Tajikistan’s total imports also increased substantially in 1999, reaching 77.6 percent, compared to 62.8 percent in 1998. Roughly half of Tajikistan’s imports are energy products including refined oil products and natural gas, all of which are imported from Tajikistan’s CIS neighbors. Tajikistan must also import many of the inputs for production of aluminum, the most important export commodity. Uzbekistan and Russia together account for 74 percent of Tajikistan’s imports from the CIS.
Tajikistan reported a trade surplus of US$24.9 million in 1999, reflecting a US$200.4 million deficit with the CIS and a US$225.3 million surplus with the rest of the world. Due to a 55.3 percent rise in exports to CIS countries, total Tajik exports rose 15.4 percent in 1999 compared to 1998, but remained below 1997 levels. A modest contraction in exports to non-CIS countries in 1999 prevented a stronger recovery in total exports. Lower cotton exports contributed to this trend. Imports in 1999 were 6.6 percent lower than in 1998, as imports from the CIS increased by 15.5 percent and imports from the rest of the world fell by 44 percent (Statistika SNG, March 2000).
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