Israel's Trade Deficit Narrowed to $7.75 Billion Last Year

Figure is lowest since 2011 thanks to big drop in energy imports, government says.

Pavel Tolchansky

Israel’s trade deficit narrowed to just 30.5 billion shekels ($7.75 billion) last year, its smallest since 2011, as imports dropped and exports posted a modest increase, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday.

The deficit was down from 49.4 billion in 2014 and 51.3 billion in 2013.

Merchandise exports edged up just 0.8% for the year to 207.7 billion shekels. Sales overseas of high-tech goods climbed 23.,4% to 16.6 billion shekels, with exports of computer and other electronic equipment 20.2% higher and pharmaceutical exports up 14.8%. But exports of polished diamonds dropped 15.8% to 28 billon shekels.

Merchandise imports, meanwhile, fell 6.8% to 207.7 billion shekels, most of that due to a sharp drop in world oil prices and the growing use of domestic gas for energy. As a result, energy imports plunged 36.6% last year.

The Bank of Israel said in its 2016 economic outlook last month that exports would show some improvement this year. It said the decline in exports, not counting polished diamonds and startup companies, had declined 2% in 2015 due to one-time factors, such as a prolonged strike at Israel Chemicals. It forecast that exports this year would rise 4% and 6.3% in 2017.

In December, the statistical bureau said, trend data for the past three months pointed to a 3% increase in merchandise exports on an annualized basis, turning around from a 2% decline in the months before that.