DPRK-PRC trade up 18.1% from January to May 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.10-07-08-2

As inter-Korean commerce has all but dried up in the wake of the Cheonan incident, trade between North Korea and China appears to have continued to grow. According to Chinese customs statistics released on July 6, trade with North Korea from January to May amounted to 983.63 million USD; 18.1 percent more than the 833.07 million USD reported for the same period last year.

North Korea imported 727.192 million USD-worth of Chinese goods (29 percent increase over the same period last year), but exports dropped by 4.9 percent, amounting to only 256.438 million USD. This indicates a 60 percent increase in North Korea’s trade deficit with China, which was 470.757 million USD in the first part of 2009. With South Korean sanctions against the North halting all inter-Korean trade outside of the Kaesong Industrial Complex following the sinking of the Cheonan, it is expected that Pyongyang will become even more economically dependent on Beijing.

During this period, crude oil accounted for most of North Korea’s imports from China, as Pyongyang bought 254,000 tons (slightly more than the 247,000 tons in early 2009). However, due to rising international fuel prices, this oil cost the North 157.097 million USD, a 76 percent increase over what Pyongyang spent during this period last year.

In addition, rice (24,400 tons), corn (31,400 tons), beans (20,500 tons), flour (34,000 tons) and other necessary food imports totaling 11,300 tons reflected a 41 percent increase over the same period in 2009. The cost of fertilizer imports also jumped sharply, amounting to 81,943 tons, or 115.6 percent more than the 38,004 tons imported from January to May 2009. Increasing imports of food and fertilizer are a result of the growing agricultural difficulties being faced in the North. Based on current prices, aviation fuel imports also grew by 46.8 percent, freight trucks by 98.7 percent, automobile fuel by 47.4 percent, and bituminous coal by 137 percent.

The top ten official imports of Chinese goods by North Korea were as follows: crude oil (21.6 percent); aviation fuel (3.1 percent); freight trucks (2.9 percent); automobile fuel (2 percent); bituminous coal (1.9 percent); fertilizer (1.8 percent); beans (1.6 percent); flour (1.6 percent); rice (1.5 percent); and corn (1.1 percent).

North Korea’s exports to China were mainly underground natural resources. The top ten exported goods were: iron ore (17.1 percent); anthracite (16 percent); pig iron (9.6 percent); zinc (5 percent); Magnesite (3.6 percent); lead (2.4 percent); silicon (2.3 percent); men’s clothing (2.2 percent); frozen squid (2.1 percent); and aluminum (1.9 percent).


One Response to “DPRK-PRC trade up 18.1% from January to May 2010”

  1. Benoit says:

    How could they finance such a big trade deficit?