By Alessandro Parodi and Vittorio Maresca di Serracapriola
(Reuters) – The European Union’s trade deficit with Russia dropped in December to a third of its level before the Ukraine war, as imports of coal, gas and oil slumped, data from the bloc’s statistics agency Eurostat showed on Friday.
Europe has been trying to wean itself off Russian gas and oil and find alternative sources for its energy needs after Moscow cut pipeline deliveries to the EU following its Ukraine invasion. The EU has also imposed a ban on Russian seaborne crude oil imports from Dec. 5.
The EU’s Russian trade deficit was 6.0 billion euros ($6.37 billion) in December 2022, a third of the 18.2 billion euros ($19.32 billion) reported in March last year, when trade between the two partners peaked.
Eurostat said commerce with Russia slowed down after the EU imposed import and export restrictions on several products following the invasion of Ukraine.
“The effects of these measures have been particularly visible in the latest months,” it said.
Russia’s share of imports into the EU from outside the bloc fell to 4.3% in December from 9.5% in February 2022. Over the same period, EU exports to Russia dropped to 2.0% from 4.0%, the Eurostat report showed.
The main goods traded between Russia and the EU include coal, natural gas, fertilisers, oil and iron & steel, the agency said.
Russia’s share of Europe’s coal imports dropped to 22% in 2022 from as much as 45% a year earlier. For natural gas, Russia’s share of imports fell to 21% last year from 36% in 2021, while oil imports dropped to 21% from 28% in 2021.
A Eurostat report published last month showed that in the second quarter of 2022, the United States overtook Russia as the EU’s largest maritime freight partner.
Imports of liquefied gas, coal and crude oil from the U.S. east coast rose by 87.7%, 85.4% and 64.6%, respectively in the April-June period, compared with the same quarter of 2021, the Eurostat report said.
($1 = 0.9420 euros)
(Reporting by Alessandro Parodi and Vittorio Maresca di Serracapriola, editing by Jane Merriman)