Bahrain-Gulf trade falls to $5.7bn in 2020 amid Covid-19 headwinds

The country's global bilateral trade, a quarter of which was with the Gulf bloc, reached $20.8bn last year

FILE PHOTO: General view of Bahrain's financial district in Manama, Bahrain, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo
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Trade between Bahrain and Gulf countries fell 10 per cent to reach $5.7 billion in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic hurt global trade flows.

This was down from $6.3bn in 2019, according to the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

Bahrain's global bilateral trade reached $20.8bn last year, a quarter of which was with the Gulf bloc, the EDB said, without providing a comparative figure for 2019.

"As well as unparalleled access to GCC markets, manufacturers in Bahrain enjoy duty free trade through FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] with 22 countries around the world, including the first ever US FTA with a GCC member – a critical market for midstream and downstream aluminium companies," Ali Al Mudaifa, executive director of investment origination at EDB, said.

The value of global trade is predicted to fall 5.6 per cent in 2020 compared with last year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad)'s December report.

This would be the biggest fall in merchandise trade since 2009, when trade fell by 22 per cent. The latest forecast is significantly more optimistic than Unctad's October report that estimated a drop of 9 per cent.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Bahrain-GCC trade stood at $1.4bn, of which 62 per cent were exports from Bahrain to the region, according to the EDB.

During the fourth quarter, the value of exports of national origin increased by 12 per cent to $1.59bn, compared to $1.41bn for the same quarter of 2019.

The country’s trade balance – the difference between exports and imports – reached a deficit of $1.16bn in the fourth quarter, narrowing 18 per cent from a deficit of $1.41bn in the prior-year period.

During the fourth quarter of 2020, the value of imports decreased by 7 per cent, reaching $3.17bn compared to $3.41bn in the same quarter a year ago.

Saudi Arabia was the top source market for Bahrain's exports, according to the EDB. The kingdom imported goods worth $337 million from Bahrain. This was followed by the US with $138m and the UAE with $135m.

Unwrought aluminum alloys were Bahrain's top exports in the fourth quarter, followed by agglomerated iron ores and concentrated alloys.