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Syria: Exports
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Foreign Trade > Exports


Syria's growing exports of crude oil and the sharp rise of world oil prices in 1973-1974 produced a steep increase in the value of exports in the 1970s. The value of petroleum exports rose from LS129 million in 1970 to LS2.7 billion in 1976, with crude oil exports alone increasing from LS291 million to LS1.6 billion from 1973 to 1974. In the 1980s, however, Syria experienced a steep decline in the value of exports because of falling world oil prices and reduced oil exports. Syrian statistics claim that the value of oil exports shrank from LS6.5 billion in 1980 to LS4.6 billion in 1984; other sources state that the drop was from LS5.2 billion to LS3.6 billion. Crude oil and oil products exported fell to 7.8 million tons in 1980, peaked at 8.1 million tons in 1982, and nosedived to 6.8 million tons in 1984. In 1980 exports totaled LS8.3 billion and fell to LS7.35 billion in 1984. The overall index in the volume of exports fell from 100 to 95 in 1983.

The value of cotton exports totaled LS310 million in 1970, LS664 million in 1980, and over LS1 billion in 1984, the record harvest year. The value of cotton exports in 1984 equaled 14.8 percent of Syria's total exports and 29.3 percent of nonpetroleum exports. In 1984, petroleum and cotton exports together accounted for 64 percent of the country's total exports. In 1985 the figures for cotton exports fell by nearly 30 percent, and the price of cotton on the world market dropped from US$1,800 a ton in 1984 to about US$1,400 a ton in 1985. Major buyers in the 1980s included the Soviet Union, Algeria, Italy, and Spain.

In addition to cotton and petroleum, Syria exported phosphates and small quantities of diverse goods. Phosphates generated LS106.3 million of export revenues in 1983. The 1981 to 1985 Five-Year Plan envisioned an increase in phosphate production to 5 million tons by 1985, generating LS580 million in export earnings. Targets fell far short of the goal but preliminary 1986 figures reflected a record increase in production. Export of textiles, chemicals, glassware, and a variety of agricultural products also earned small amounts of foreign exchange.

In the 1960s, Syria's major trading partners were East European states, but in the 1970s the direction of trade shifted to Western Europe, as the government pursued limited economic liberalization policies. In 1976 Western Europe (primarily the EEC) provided the main markets for Syrian exports, accounting for 57 percent. East European and Arab countries accounted for 25 and 11 percent of total exports, respectively.

In the 1980s, Syria experienced another shift in the direction of trade. Exports to Western Europe had risen to 61.6 percent by 1980 but fell to 35.7 percent in 1984. In 1980 the East European share of Syrian exports totaled only 16.1 percent but rose to 43.8 percent in 1984, clearly indicating the return to those markets. However, in contrast to the 1960s, when East European states served as the main export market for Syrian goods on a cash basis, in the 1980s much of Syria's East European trade occurred as countertrade or barter deals as a result of Syria's severe shortage of foreign exchange. In 1985 Syria concluded barter deals with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, exporting phospates in exchange for engineering and construction equipment and industrial raw materials.

To boost trade, Syria also signed important treaties of friendship and cooperation with East European states in the 1980s. Syria renewed its 1980 treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1985 and signed a similar agreement with Bulgaria in May 1985. In 1984 the most important export markets were Romania (LS2 billion), Italy (LS1.4 billion), Soviet Union (LS838 million), France (LS877 million), Spain (LS240 million), Algeria (LS164 million) and Iran (LS164 million).

Data as of April 1987

Last Updated: April 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Syria was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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