FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments
Like any small country, Austria depends heavily on foreign
trade. Its central location in Europe reinforces that dependency
and gives Austria a wide range of trading partners in both
Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Austria also consistently
seeks to avoid isolation and has joined international trading
systems to ensure markets for its products and access to the
goods it needs.
As the economy has evolved and produced a more sophisticated
range of products, foreign trade has become more important.
Foreign trade made up about one-fourth of GDP in 1955, one-third
by 1975, and two-fifths by 1990. Austria's export structure has
also evolved. One-half the country's exports were once raw
materials, foods, and semifinished goods, but by the early 1990s
two-thirds of its exports were finished products. Imports have
came to reflect this change and consist mostly of industrial and
semifinished goods that require further processing and finishing.
The largest category of exports in 1991 was machinery and
equipment, accounting for almost one-third of all exports. Other
major items included chemical products, paper and paper products,
transportation equipment, metal manufactures, and textiles and
clothing. The largest single import item was also machinery and
equipment; other items were manufactured products, chemical
products, fuels and energy, and petroleum.
Austria's main trading partners are in continental Europe,
especially Germany, Italy, and Switzerland (see
Appendix). Because of a heavy dependency on imports, Austria
usually has a negative trade balance, which is compensated for by
positive services and capital accounts (see
table 12, Appendix).
Income from tourism is especially important in reducing the
negative trade balance. The trade balance deteriorated
particularly during the 1970s because of increased oil prices,
and Austria had to make special efforts during the 1980s to
redress the balance.
Data as of December 1993