North Korean trade with Russia decreased sharply in the first quarter of 2015, according to data from the ITC Trade Map, despite continued attempts to improve bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries.
Both imports and exports between Russia and North Korea fell in the first four months of 2015 compared to 2014 numbers.
Exports from North Korea to Russia fell from more than $3 million in the fourth quarter of last year to approximately $500,000.
The drop was mostly on the back of a big reduction of machine and clothes exports to Russia. While the latter group also appears to fluctuate based on the season, imports in the first four months of 2015 were also lower than those a year earlier.
Exports from Russia to North Korea account for the largest share of trade between the two countries, and also fell in the first quarter.
Overall, Russian exports fell by nearly 20 percent so far in 2015, compared to last quarter of 2014. At $17 million, the figure was 70 percent of that in the same period last year.
North Korea’s lower imports from Russia were mainly due to a large decrease in food imports.
Throughout the last six months of 2014, the DPRK imported more than $12 million in cereals from Russia, but these imports appeared to cease in 2015.
The overall numbers dropped despite an uptick in North Korean imports of Russian coal.
The figures continue a trend of decreasing trade between the two countries. From 2013 to 2014 trade values also fell, but were not as low as the most recent 2015 figures.
The news comes despite a flurry of diplomatic and political exchanges between the two countries geared towards increasing economic cooperation and trade, with Russia setting a target of $1 billion in trade by 2020.
Experts, however, remain skeptical on cooperation.
“The goal of $1 billion is not that realistic because both sides cannot make any huge profitable projects. Trilateral projects including South Korea are promising I think but bilateral projects between North Korea and Russia are limited,” Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification (KNU) told NK News last month.
Over the last six months the two countries have begun transacting in rubles, created a business cooperation council and appointed coordinators to handle specific, large scale cooperation projects.
Russia is also looking to establish a visa-free regime for Russian citizens visiting the DPRK.
Additional reporting by Thomas Grevedon
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Featured Image: Moscow skyline by Pavel "KoraxDC" Kazachkov on 2013-05-03 21:47:44