Low exports in January, but no sign of pessimism
Estonian exports were down 11% in January for the first time since 2011. Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir (SDE) said that the explanation was the economic situation of the main export partners.
In January 2016 Estonia exported goods in the amount of €825m, which is 11% less than in the same month a year ago. Imports were 2% higher than a year ago at €983m.
The trade deficit grew to €158m, which is more than two and a half times that of January 2015. The last time exports were this low was in 2011.
“Our closest export markets in the East as well as in the North clearly are in a recession, and the global economy isn’t showing signs of recovery either,” Oviir said. “The reasons are the same as in previous periods.”
Oviir sees the growth in imports as a positive sign. “Our exports are to a large extent reexports, which means that first we import, add something, and then export again. In this sense, this indicator is likely a good one.”
Even though the foreign trade balance didn't look good, services compensated for it, and at the moment the current account deficit wasn’t as big as it used to be during boom times years ago, Oviir said.
Erki Lõhmuste of the Finance Ministry’s fiscal policy division said that when combining goods and services, the export-import balance was still positive.
In the assessment of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, companies weren’t currently affected by low exports. “Talking to companies in the actual markets, one doesn’t get the idea that they’d all be very pessimistic or negative. Everybody’s looking for new markets, new customers, and they’re working on the development of their products,” said the chamber’s Director General, Mait Palts.
In Palts’ words, Finland making its way out of recession was an especially positive signal.