Switzerland overtook Russia among the trade partners of the EU

Friday, 31 March, the statistical Agency of European Union Eurostat has published statistics on foreign trade for 2015 (available also in Russian). The volume of bilateral trade with Russia amounted to €209,6 billion is 6% of the total foreign trade of the EU and 26% lower than in 2014, when the figure was €284,6 billion Trade turnover between Russia and the EU reached its lowest level since 2009 — then it was €185,3 billion we are Talking about the so-called “merchandise trade” (trade in goods), which does not include direct investment and “trade in services”.

In the list of trading partners of the EU in 2015 for the first time Russia lost the third place Switzerland, the turnover of which amounted to €253 billion In the first and second places among EU partners — the US and China, with them the EU has traded in the past year to €619 billion and €521 billion, respectively.

Russia supplies Europe with goods worth almost twice its imports from the EU: €135,7 billion against €73,9 billion, respectively. The only country of the EU, priority trading partner, which last year Russia became Lithuania. For Latvia Russia takes the second place on volumes of export. Many EU countries are interested in Russian goods: Moscow is the second most important import partner for Bulgaria and the third highest in Greece, Poland and Finland.

The EU remains the leading trading partner for Russia. According to the Deputy head of the Ministry of economic development of Russia Alexei Likhachev, the EU’s share in Russia’s trade with all countries by the end of 2015 amounted to 44.5%. Named preliminary assessment of its volume higher than that of European statisticians — $230 billion Over the past year, according to the Federal customs service, in 2015 the export of goods to EU countries fell by 36.1%, while imports — by 40.8%.

As noted by Eurostat, Russia’s trade with the European Union started to decline even before the deterioration of relations and the introduction of mutual sanctions, the peak of the bilateral trade volume reached in 2012 when they amounted to €338,5 billion that occupied a tenth of the total foreign trade turnover of the Union. In subsequent years, the trade gradually declined.

The fact that the volumes began to fall before the Ukrainian crisis, has attracted the attention of authors of the position paper on bilateral trade relations, prepared for the European Commission (). The authenticity of the document was confirmed by two European diplomatic source. The negative trend in trade relations experts explain the course toward protectionism and import substitution. By the time it coincided with Russia’s accession to the WTO in summer 2012 and the introduction of subsidies for local producers, to compensate for abolished duties.

To turn away from protectionism towards an open market, says the document, from Moscow will require fundamental changes in economic policy, coordinated at the top. “So far we do not see any prerequisites to such change of course, on the contrary,” reads the note of the European Commission.

On this basis the report concluded: even in the case of a mutual lifting of economic sanctions, the volume of Russian-European trade will not be able to go significantly grow in the short term. Another reason: economic situation in Russia itself, due to the fall in oil prices and “a lack of diversification and modernization”.

The European Commission said that it is ready to continue the dialogue with Russia and build economic and trade relations. Moreover, as noted in the document, Brussels considers to be more effective and successful work of the EU with Russia as a whole, rather than bilateral negotiations of Moscow with the countries-EU members.

In the part devoted to trade relations with Ukraine, the authors of the position paper recommended the EU not to interfere in bilateral negotiations between Moscow and Kiev, and to support trade diversification of Ukraine. Intention to resume tripartite consultations Russia-Ukraine-EU, failed in December last year, the Brussels-no, the document says.