Drop in import value lowers Caribbean Netherlands’ trade deficits

In 2020, all three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands recorded a year-on-year decrease in their goods trade deficit. St Eustatius saw the sharpest decline, followed by Bonaire and Saba. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures.

Centraal Bureau voor Statistiek

The islands of the Caribbean Netherlands have structural trade deficits. This means more goods are imported than exported. In comparison with the European part of the Netherlands, manufacturing is relatively low in the Caribbean Netherlands. Most of the island’s income stems from (tourism) services. However, this news release focuses on goods trade.

Bonaire: first trade deficit decline in six years

In 2020, Bonaire ran a trade deficit of 236 million US dollars, i.e. 2 percent down on 2019. It is the first time in six years that the island’s trade deficit shows a year-on-year decline.

Last year, Bonaire imported goods to a total of 244 million US dollars, while exports stood at 8 million US dollars. Both imports (-4 percent) and exports (-33 percent) were down on 2019. The decline in imports was on account of machinery and transport equipment. On the export side, the decline was mainly due to fewer incoming raw materials.

Import and export value of goods on Bonaire

St Eustatius: import value down for third year in a row

Statia’s trade deficit has decreased by one-quarter over a three-year period. In 2020, goods imports exceeded exports by 39 million US dollars. The trade deficit was 11 percent down on the previous year. The import value (-10 percent) fell for the third consecutive year and stood at 41 million US dollars in 2020. Goods exports (1 million US dollars), however, were 13 percent up on 2019.

Saba: trade deficit drops slightly

In 2020, Saba’s trade figures were similar to those in 2019. The value of imported goods (21 million US dollars) remained more or less the same, while exports increased by three-quarters. On balance, Saba’s trade deficit declined by 1 percent to 21 million US dollars last year.

Trade deficits of St Eustatius and Saba

Decrease in Bonaire’s trade deficit due to machinery and transport equipment

There are no indications that the decrease in Bonaire’s trade deficit, as well as Statia’s and Saba’s deficits, is a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. In fact, Bonaire had larger deficits for most goods categories in 2020 compared to the previous year. These categories also included goods that were used to deal with the crisis.

The decline in Bonaire’s trade deficit last year is entirely on account of machinery and transport equipment. In this goods category, a 24-percent lower import value resulted in a smaller trade deficit: 58 million US dollars. This was still 76 million US dollars one year previously. The only other category with a decrease in trade deficit in 2020 was mineral fuels (-23 percent). As for raw materials, the deficit notably doubled from 4 to 8 million US dollars compared to 2019.

Composition of Bonaire's trade deficit


Caribbean Netherlands; import and export values per island

Dutch: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/nl/dataset/82658ned

English: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82658eng

Caribbean Netherlands, Bonaire; import and export values, SITC

Dutch: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/nl/dataset/82659ned

English: https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline/#/CBS/en/dataset/82659eng


Trade deficit

A trade deficit occurs when imports exceed exports of goods.