External trade in goods and services posted a deficit of USD207m in December after a USD55m surplus in November, according to preliminary figures published by the central bank today. A year earlier, the gap was wider at USD341m. Merchandise trade gap in particular narrowed to USD498m in December 2018 from USD598m a year earlier. Merchandise imports were down for the second month in a row in December, and decline deepened to 6.4% y/y. Merchandise exports also declined y/y in December, by 2.5%, for the first time since October 2016, according to our records.
Trade surplus in merchandise and services reached USD695m last year, up from only USD83m in 2017. The merchandise trade gap narrowed to USD2.7bn from USD3.0bn. This year, deficit is likely to widen as Russian oil will be more expensive for Belarusian refineries because of a Russian tax manoeuvre for the oil industry affecting bilateral trade. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is going to Russia to discuss this on Feb 13.