Exports and Imports
As a continuation of its efforts to increase nonhydrocarbon exports, especially by the private sector, the government decreed in 1990 that privately owned companies could export surplus textiles, leather goods, agricultural produce, and phosphates. Almost half of Algeria's total hydrocarbon sales in 1990 consisted of crude oil and condensates (22 percent refined products, and 30 percent natural gas). Nonhydrocarbon exports included, in order of importance, wine, metals and metal products, phosphates, fruits and vegetables, and iron ore.
Of Algeria's total imports, worth more than US$9.8 billion in 1989, foodstuffs accounted for 31.5 percent, semifinished goods 32 percent, industrial goods 25 percent, and other consumer goods 10.5 percent. After the government decreased the number of largescale national development projects, imports of capital goods dropped correspondingly. But imports of consumer goods have been high, with foodstuffs alone costing about US$2 billion in 1989.
The government's concern over its ability to meet hardcurrency payments caused it to control the level of imports, even at the expense of appearing to contradict its own policy of liberalizing the economy, including foreign trade rules. This measure, however, did not mean a return to the 1978 law that had allowed the Ministry of Commerce to monopolize trade and subjected commercial transactions to Central Bank approval. Private companies continued to import goods on their own account, to use foreign exchange generated from their exports to finance the imports they needed, and to enter into joint ventures with foreign partners. Other stringent restrictions, such as forbidding foreign firms to engage in direct sales and limiting them to opening a regional office known as a Liaison Bureau (Bureau de Liaison), were removed in 1988. Legislation passed in 1991 permitted the establishment of local marketing operations, as well as agency agreements between foreign and Algerian partners known as concessionaires. The new distribution system practically ended the government's monopoly on foreign trade. Both manufacturers and suppliers can now sell either through local wholesalers or through their own distribution networks.
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