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Evolving Trade Patterns in the CIS: The Role of Manufacturing
  • Robert C. Shelburne, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
  • Oksana Pidufala, Brookings Institution
The CIS countries were subject to severe economic shocks in the early 1990s that have yet to be fully absorbed; this is especially true for their manufacturing industries. Manufactured exports fell dramatically after the breakup of the Soviet Union both absolutely and as a percentage of total trade; more recently manufactures have been growing at about the same rate as total exports for most of the CIS. Currently, manufactured exports as a share of total trade vary considerably across the CIS from relatively high levels in Belarus and Ukraine to very low levels for the central Asian CIS. Overall, however, the shares of manufactured exports (as well as imports) are low, relative to world averages. In terms of both manufactures and non-manufactures there has been limited progress in diversifying their export structures to cover a wider range of goods; in fact over the last five years commodity export concentration has increased in all of the CIS except Armenia. Currently most of CIS manufactures exports are in SITC 6; somewhat surprising is the absence of chemical exports given their natural resource base and the absence of apparel exports given their factor endowments and technological levels. Their exports of high-skilled goods are low (and declining) even compared to developing countries; there is really no significant difference in this regard between their exports to the other CIS and the rest of the world. Somewhat inconsistent with the previous statement however, is the finding that the CIS generally export products that are typically exported by countries much richer than themselves; this is especially the case for their exports to each other. There are a number of explanations that might reasonably explain this result for most of the CIS but the magnitude of this tendency is unexplainably large for several (Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine). Over the last decade the CIS have significantly diversified their geographical destinations for exports of natural resource and raw materials but have been less successful in terms of promoting their manufactures. Nevertheless Russia remains either the largest import or export partner for all of the CIS and in several cases is the largest for both. Currently, the CIS under-rely on the other CIS for their imports of manufactures but over-rely on them as a destination for their own manufactures exports. The trade of the CIS is noteworthy to the degree to which there is a relative absence of intra-industry trade; this is even more the case for manufactures. In several respects this results from the fact that each of the CIS exports its own set of products for which there is limited overlap. To some degree this is due to legacy effects from Soviet times when there was considerable geographical specialization. In addition this anomaly of CIS trade shows no signs of converging to world norms. CIS products appear to be of relatively low quality and this is especially the case for manufactured capital goods. The study also describes the current trade policy issues facing the region focusing on the advantages of forming preferential trading arrangements versus WTO membership and the degree to which these are complementary. The longer-run prospects for manufacturing and policy options for promoting manufacturing sectors are also explored.
  • CIS,
  • Russia,
  • Trade,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Intra-Industry Trade,
  • Trade Policy
Publication Date
September, 2006
Citation Information
Robert C. Shelburne and Oksana Pidufala. Evolving Trade Patterns in the CIS: The Role of Manufacturing, United Nations ECE Discussion Paper No. 2006.2.