North Macedonia’s trade with Russia surprisingly increases even after Western sanctions
Northern Macedonia’s sanctions against the Russian Federation do not seem to have produced the expected results. Instead of decreasing trade, official data show the opposite. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, North Macedonia has joined the United States of America and the countries of the European Union (EU) in imposing a package of sanctions.
If the latest data is analysed, that is, from January this year, a significant increase in trade exchange will be seen. This trend is also present in import and export with all of North Macedonia’s main trading partners.
According to the data of the State Agency for Statistics, the total value of goods exports from the Republic of North Macedonia in January 2023 marks an increase of 13.7% compared to the same month in 2022.
In January 2023, according to the overall volume of foreign trade, the Republic of North Macedonia traded mainly with Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Serbia and China. Expressed in euros, the total value of goods exports from the Republic of North Macedonia in January 2023 reaches 621 million euros, while the value of imported goods is 848 million euros, which is 5% more than in the same period the previous year.
Exports to the Russian Federation in January 2022 amounted to 3.6 million euros, while in January this year it was 8.8 million. Imports from the Russian Federation have also increased: While in January last year it was 17.6 million euros, in January this year russian goods worth 50.6 million euros were imported to North Macedonia.
Despite this growth, the Russian Federation is far from being a strong trading partner of Northern Macedonia. With an export of only 0.5 billion euros during 2022, Russia ranks 13th on the list of states where the country exports more of its goods.
In the first place is the EU with 6.5 billion euros, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the market where Republic of North Macedonia products are sold, from which goods worth 4.7 billion euros were exported to Germany last year alone. In second place is the UK, where annual exports reach 2 billion euros, in third place Serbia with 1.1 billion euros, followed by China, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy and Hungary, where exports reach the figure of 1 billion euros per year.
If the export trend is seen after the imposition of sanctions against Russia, there is also an annual increase. If in 2021 the export was worth only 200 million euros, in 2022 this activity reached the value of 500 million euros.
These figures show that the sanctions against Russia had no impact on trade between the two countries at all. However, these figures are not characteristic only for North Macedonia. Other countries in the region, as well as the EU, have not managed to reduce the trade exchange with Russia that was expected due to the imposed sanctions. Governments have failed to convince private companies to suspend the implementation of contracts with their partners from the Russian Federation, which has made the results of the sanctions impossible.
On the contrary, the difficult situation Russia found itself in due to international isolation after invading part of Ukraine has led to an increase in demand for goods from the Balkans and, consequently, interest in placing Russian goods in this region. This, of course, was a golden opportunity for businessmen who do not see beyond opportunity for profit.
According to official data, North Macedonia exports mainly antibiotic-containing medicines, peaches, apples, tobacco, tomatoes, ajvar, accumulators and various car parts to the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, energy, wheat, coal, oil and artificial fertilizers are imported from Russia.
In early March 2022, businessmen from the Russian-Macedonian Chamber of Commerce reacted to the imposition of sanctions on Russia and warned that Russia could also impose sanctions on Republic of North Macedonia goods. Although the Republic of North Macedonia was found in the list of Russia’s hostile states, that is, those that had imposed sanctions, however, this was not reflected in the trade exchange between the countries. /The Geopost/
Writes: Xhelal Neziri – associate of The Geopost from North Macedonia