The Government of Turkmenistan closely monitors all foreign trade through the State Commodities and Commodity Exchange. The country's trade policy aims to develop export markets for gas, petroleum products, electricity and cotton. Tariffs are relatively low in Turkmenistan, yet non-tariff barriers hinder trade. The total value of exports and imports equals 35% of GDP (according to the latest data available from the World Bank). In 2021, mineral fuels represented 59% of total exports (mostly gas), followed by cotton (10.7%), fertilizers (10.2%), and plastic and rubber (5.3%); whereas imports were led by machinery (14.3%), electrical machinery (10.6%), aircraft (9.2%), and vehicles (6.1% - data ITC 2021). In 2020, WTO members agreed to grant Turkmenistan observer status in the organization. Market access remains very limited and trade continues to be hampered by low productivity, limited access to financial services, high transport costs, and underdeveloped infrastructure and quality management. Despite the ongoing and planned diversification of its markets, Turkmenistan's exports are generally dependent on a single large market (China) and continue to be dominated by a single product (natural gas), making the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices, beyond its control. In this context, a pipeline project for China (which became operative in April 2022) and the pipeline proposed by Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), could more than double the gas export capacity. After Russia's decision in early 2016 to suspend its gas imports from Turkmenistan, China became the key customer of the country and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of its gas exports. However, Russia resumed gas imports from Turkmenistan in 2019, after a three-year hiatus. Nevertheless, exports to Iran have been also suspended since 2017 due to a pricing dispute. On January 21, 2021, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding over the joint exploration of the Dostlug gas field in order to strengthen the export capacity. By late 2022, Turkmenistan has unveiled plans to double natural gas exports to China and increase supplies to 65 billion cubic meters per year after it builds a fourth gas pipeline between the two countries.
In country terms, in 2021, Turkey overtook China as the main export destination (22.7% and 16.3% of the total, respectively, with exports to China falling by one-third year-on-year), Uzbekistan (22%), and Georgia (6.3%); whereas the main import origins were Turkey (21.5%), Russia (15.8%), China (11.2%), and Italy (10.6% - data ITC 2021).
Turkmenistan's trade balance has a structural surplus. According to WTO, exports of goods totalled USD 9.2 billion in 2021 (an increase of 44.2% year-on-year), with imports reaching USD 4 billion (+28.7% y-o-y). According to official government data, Turkmenistan's foreign trade turnover in 2022 amounted to USD 20 billion (12.7 billion in exports and 7.3 billion in imports). Turkmen gas exports to China, Russia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in 2022 increased by more than 60% compared to 2021, while electricity exports to Afghanistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan increased by nearly 30%.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||4,571||2,351||2,913||3,127||4,026|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||7,458||9,573||9,695||6,385||9,212|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||54||35||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||31||12||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||22||23||n/a||n/a||n/a|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023