Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
Last year North Korea’s foreign trade volume (excluding economic exchanges with South Korea) totaled 7.6 billion USD, a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year. According to a report recently put out by KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) entitled “North Korea’s International Trade Patterns in 2014,” last year North Korean exports totaled 3.16 billion USD, while imports totaled 4.45 billion USD. This represents a 1.7 percent decrease in exports and 7.8 percent growth in imports over the previous year. As a result North Korea’s trade deficit in 2014 leaped to 1.29 billion USD, a 41 percent increase over 2013. This expansion of trade appears to be a product of growth in the import of goods such as plastics, machinery and electricity, as well as growth in the export of clothing.
Among North Korea’s main exports, mineral fuels such as coal, at 1.18 billion USD, represented 37.2 percent of total exports and was the country’s main export product. Meanwhile, exports of clothing and components saw the biggest growth rate, at 23.7 percent, and amounted to 640 million USD. In regards to other exports, iron ore totaled 330 million USD (18.3 percent decrease over 2013), fish and crustaceans totaled 140 million USD (21.9 percent increase), and steel amounted to 130 million USD (22 percent increase).
North Korea’s main imports were as follows: mineral fuels (750 million USD – 4.7 percent decrease), electric equipment (430 million USD – 54.8 percent increase), furnaces and machinery (330 million USD – 3.3 percent increase), motor vehicles and parts (230 million USD – 9.6 percent decrease), and plastic (200 million USD – 31.8 percent increase).
It appears North Korea’s main trading partner is still China. Last year its trade volume with China reached 6.86 billion USD (exports – 2.84 billion USD, imports – 4.02 billion USD), a 4.9 percent increase over 2013. This contributed to a slight increase in North Korea’s reliance on trade with China. Its proportion of trade with China went from 89.1 percent in 2013 to 90.1 percent in 2014. After China, the countries that North Korea traded most with were Russia, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh, in that order. Hong Kong and Ukraine dropped off the list of North Korea’s top ten trading partners, and Pakistan and Germany newly appeared on the list at 8th and 10th place, respectively. Trade with Japan has been nonexistent since 2009. Due to its economic sanctions against North Korea, the United States also had no economic exchanges with North Korea in 2014 outside of relief aid, mostly in the form of medical supplies and equipment.
As North Korea’s over-reliance on trade with China continued, its trade deficit widened due to the decrease in exports and surge in imports. Considering factors such as the complementary trade structure (including contract processing and natural resource trade), the protraction of North Korea’s political and economic isolation, and their highly interdependent relationship, it seems likely that North Korea’s strong reliance on trade with China will continue in the future.
[NOTE: KOTRA data excludes inter-Korean trade. If South Korean trade were included, it would be North Korea’s second largest trading partner, and the composition of trade allotted to China would fall.]
Here is coverage in Yonhap:
North Korea’s global trade expanded in 2014 from a year earlier, but its trade deficit also widened due to a drop in exports, a report showed Friday.
According to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, North Korea’s trade came to US$7.61 billion last year, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier. The figures did not count its trade with South Korea.
North Korea’s exports shrank 1.7 percent on-year to $3.16 billion last year, while imports grew 7.8 percent to $4.45 billion over the same period, the report showed.
Based on the figures, North Korea posted a trade deficit of $1.29 billion last year, with its shortfall jumping 41 percent from the year before.
Minerals and fossil fuels, including coal, were among the country’s major export items as its overseas sales stood at $1.18 billion, which accounted for 37.2 percent of its total annual exports.
The report showed that North Korea continues to depend heavily on China for its trade.
Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $6.86 billion, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier. North Korea’s dependence on China in trade increased slightly from 89.1 percent in 2013 to 90.1 percent last year, according to the report.
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N. Korea’s global trade expands but trade gap widens: report
Here is coverage in UPI:
South Korea’s trade promotion agency KOTRA stated North Korea’s trade with the outside world rose to $7.61 billion in 2014, a marginal increase from the previous fiscal year.
In its annual report on North Korea trade trends released Friday, KOTRA noted North Korean exports scaled down while demand for outside materials was up between 2013 and 2014, Yonhap reported.
Numbers indicated North Korea’s exports decreased by 1.7 percent to $3.16 billion in 2014, while imports rose by 7.8 percent to $4.45 billion.
North Korea’s trade deficit jumped to $1.29 billion, up 41 percent from 2013.
In 2014 North Korea imported more electrical equipment, machinery and plastics than it did a year earlier, while exporting more clothing and accessories, according to KOTRA.
The country’s primary export is coal, a trade valued at $1.18 billion and comprises 37.2 percent of North Korea exports.
Clothing and accessories inched up in its share of total exports, rising to $640 million – up 23.7 percent from 2013.
The country’s primary import was fossil fuels at $750 million, followed by electrical equipment at $430 million and boilers, machinery at $330 million.
China remained North Korea’s No. 1 trading partner, reported South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Sinmun.
In 2014 China-North Korea trade inched up 4.9 percent to $6.87 billion. North Korea imported more than it exported from China. Exports were estimated at $2.84 billion while imports totaled $4.03 billion.
A KOTRA official told Yonhap North Korea’s protracted political and economic isolation has led to a high dependence on trade with China, facilitated by a complementary trade structure between the two countries.
South Korea’s report stated North Korea’s trade dependence on China was as high as 90.1 percent, dwarfing Pyongyang’s next major trading partner, Russia, as well as India, Thailand and Bangladesh.
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North Korea’s trade deficit continued to grow, says SKorea
Here is coverage in the Joong Ang Ilbo:
North Korea’s international trade volume reached $7.6 billion in 2014, rising by 3.7 percent year-on-year, according to a report on Friday by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra).
The growth was backed by Pyongyang’s increased import of electronic devices and machinery and its rising export of clothing, according to the agency.
Kotra said North Korea’s export volume was worth $3.2 billion last year, a 1.7 percent decline from the previous year.
On the other hand, the reclusive state imported $4.5 billion worth of goods, up 7.8 percent. The widening disparity between imports and exports extended the North’s trade deficit by 41 percent to $1.3 billion.
China remained Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner in 2014, the report said, followed by Russia, India, Thailand and Bangladesh. Its trading volume with China increased to $6.9 billion, with imports from that nation accounting for $4 billion and exports $2.9 billion. The overall figure is a 4.9 percent increase from 2013, nudging up the North’s overall degree of dependence on foreign trade with China to 90.1 percent from 89.1 percent.
Hong Kong and Ukraine were no longer in the North’s top 10 trading partners, but Pakistan and Germany made their way onto the list. By contrast, Japan has not traded with the North since 2009, while the United States only provided it with aid and medical equipment.
Kotra noted that the North’s key export products include mineral resources such as coal and brown coal, which account for 37.2 percent of all its exports. Clothing and fisheries products were also among its major exports, with garment shipments recently seeing rapid growth.
The country’s other major export products consist of crude oil, refined oil, machinery, electronic devices, cars and auto parts. The value of resource imports decreased by 4.7 percent last year, while those of electronic machines surged by 54.8 percent.
Kotra expects that the North will continue to rely on its neighboring key ally going forward.
“2014 saw increasing dependence on China, while North Korea extended trade deficits due to the increase in imports and the decline in exports,” Kotra said in a statement. “When considering geopolitical factors and mutually beneficial trade structure, the North is expected to show further reliance on China.”
The Korea Development Institute, a state-run think tank, released its own report that paints dim prospects for the North’s exports.
The institute said the North’s exports of anthracite coal to China are expected to fall in the years to come due to China’s dwindling steel industry and stronger environmental regulations. Its exports of the coal to its ally have been considered the backbone of its economy, accounting for about 40 percent of its overall exports.
The report called on the North to reorganize its trade structure in order to avoid being seriously affected.
“The time has come for North Korea to reshape its external trade structure,” it noted.
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North’s trade volume rises
Joong Ang Ilbo