Our own among strangers: over the past 19 years, imports to the Russian Federation have seriously decreased


Over the past 19 years, industrial imports have dropped sharply in Russia, from 49% in 1999 to 39% in 2018. Such conclusions were made by HSE specialists in their study. This level is comparable to the US and India, and lower than in Eastern Europe. Russia has made a breakthrough in the agro-industrial complex and the woodworking industry – it is in these segments that the country competes with other states in world exports. In 2022-2023, import substitution will accelerate – the main focus of the state is aimed at a technological breakthrough, experts say.

Ahead of many

The use of imports in the domestic industry has declined sharply over the past 19 years, this follows from a study that was presented on February 15 in Moscow. If in 1999 the share of foreign products accounted for 49%, then by the end of 2018 – 39%. Yuri Simachev, Director for Economic Policy at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, told reporters about this during the presentation.

— This level of consumption is significantly lower than in other developed countries that are close to us in terms of per capita income. This is comparable to the indicator of the United States and India, plus two times lower than in the economies of Eastern Europe – Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltic countries. It is also 1.5 times lower than in Canada and Australia, 1.3 times lower than in Germany,” the expert said. — In 2018, the level of consumption of the foreign component in the industry was relatively low, we believe that in 2019-2022 it further decreased.

Yuri Simachev noted that the import itself does not carry negative risks – all countries import products to one degree or another. Only dependence on foreign goods, the absence of alternatives in the choice, acquires significance.

The expert added that import substitution was successfully carried out, for example, in the agro-industrial complex. In this industry, Russia has not only learned to satisfy its needs, but also began to participate in world exports with a competitive advantage. While the technological dependence on imports in the country remains, as well as in complex equipment.

The Russian Federation is traditionally one of the leaders in the production of basic types of food products, such as wheat, barley, sunflower oil, the Ministry of Agriculture added to Izvestia. For example, the production of cereals and legumes is breaking records. According to Rosstat, in 2022 their harvest in net weight amounted to 153.8 million tons against 121.4 million tons in 2021.

“We are also among the largest exporters of these products, including the first place in the world in the supply of wheat. In addition, our country occupies a significant share in the world production of meat, sugar, butter and cheese, the ministry stressed.

Izvestia sent a request to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

All your own

The authorities began to implement the Russian policy of import substitution in the 2000s, Yury Simachev recalled. At that time, it was oriented towards attracting foreign investment, using foreign technologies, and integrating into global value chains. For example, this concerned the aircraft and automotive industries, and the pharmaceutical industry. In 2005, the authorities began laying the legal foundations for the localization of production in the Russian Federation, initially the level was 30%, then it was increased to 60%.

After the financial crisis in 2009, a new global wave of import substitution began: developed industrial countries began to use their capacities, this was due, for example, to the technological revolution. All this was accompanied by the fact that uncertainty increased in the world economy, and conflicts began in trade, the first trade wars started, the expert recalled.

But already in 2009-2010, countries began to feel some informal restrictions. For example, when they wanted to attract really sophisticated technologies from the foreign market, in some areas, domestic companies became visible in the world as competitors to other states. Then Russia began to pay more attention to the development of technological competencies.

In 2014, our country faced the first sanctions, the response to which was a new round of import substitution in many industries. Then the Industrial Development Fund appeared, which became the basic tool for organizing companies, Yuri Simachev said. The authorities have created a Russian science fund and launched a national technology initiative.

But after that, in 2022, the domestic economy faced unprecedented economic restrictions. They demanded a rethinking of the very approaches to import substitution.

In 2022-2023, this process will accelerate, economist Georgy Ostapkovich told Izvestia. The main focus of the state is now directed to a technological breakthrough, you can already see how VIP financing is immediately allocated to all import-substituting projects in this industry. For Russia, this issue is of high relevance against the backdrop of sanctions pressure.

The expert noted that the problem of technology import substitution in the world is typical for many states. Only one country has solved the issue of technological independence – this is South Korea, which opened its economy to the influx of qualified personnel about 10-15 years ago, which allowed the creation of new industries in this state.


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