Country Listing

Bahrain Table of Contents


Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments

Traditionally, Bahrain was the entrepôt and distribution center for the northern Persian Gulf region. Since independence, however, it has lost much of its role as a result of the development of nearby Saudi Arabian ports and strong competition from Dubayy in the UAE in the southern gulf. Oil continues to be the most important item in the country's international trade, representing well over one-half of the total value of both exports and imports. The industrial diversification program has resulted in the creation of non-oil manufactured exports, while investments in agriculture have reduced significantly the importation of certain food commodities.

The total value of imports in 1989, the latest year for which statistics have been published, was about US$2.8 billion, a 34 percent decrease from the 1982 total of US$3.7 billion (see table 17, Appendix). The cost of crude petroleum, imported from Saudi Arabia for processing at the Sitrah oil refinery, declined to US$1.5 billion in 1988, compared with US$1.9 billion in 1982 and US$2.5 billion in 1981. This significant drop, however, resulted more from the steady fall in international oil prices than from a decrease in the actual number of barrels imported. The major nonoil imports included machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, alumina, chemicals, food, and live animals.

In 1989 Bahrain's principal trading partners were Britain, the United States, and Japan, accounting for approximately 16.3 percent, 12.4 percent, and 10.5 percent, respectively, of total imports (see table 18, Appendix). Other major import sources included Australia, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, and Saudi Arabia.

In 1989 the value of Bahrain's exports was US$2.8 billion, down 12 percent from 1984. Depressed oil prices, especially in the 1986-88 period, continued to erode the value of oil and oil products, the principal components of the export trade. Non-oil exports consisted of manufactured goods, in particular aluminum products but also some construction materials. The chief trading partners were Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the UAE, accounting for 18.2 percent, 7.3 percent, and 6.9 percent, respectively, of all exports in 1989. Other export markets included Japan, India, Kuwait, and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

The value of Bahrain's imports was slightly less than the value of its exports in 1989. Preliminary estimates for 1990 indicated that the trade balance would also have a slight surplus. The favorable balance was attributed to the dramatic rise in oil prices that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Data as of January 1993