The position of small and medium-sized enterprises in the foreign trade of the Slovak Republic in 2018

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Given the relatively high degree of external openness of the Slovak economy, the development of the Slovak economy is to a significant extent related to developments on foreign markets. Strong interlinkages may therefore also entail certain risks in relation to developments in the external environment.

The revised data of the Statistical Office of the SR showed a year-on-year increase in the export performance of the Slovak economy. According to the data of the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, total exports of goods in 2018 increased by 7.2% compared to 2017, to the level of EUR 79,144.5 million. Imports of goods also increased by 8.6% year-on-year. The total volume of imports amounted to EUR 76,835.0 million.

The development of Slovakia’s export performance in 2018 was largely influenced by the external environment due to Slovakia’s high degree of openness. The openness of the Slovak economy reached 190.2%.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in the Slovak economy, especially in job creation, value added and regional development. Nevertheless, Slovakia’s foreign trade is dominated by large enterprises.

The volume of total SME exports was at the level of EUR 18,702.8 million, which represents a year-on-year increase of 3.6%. SMEs accounted for 27.5% of the total value of exported goods (i.e. 0.7 p.p. less than in 2017). In terms of individual size categories of enterprises, the volume or value of exported goods increased in all monitored categories of enterprises. In terms of the number of exporting businesses, the share of SMEs was 98.5% in the year under review (i.e. 30,484 enterprises). Of the total number of small and medium-sized enterprises (including natural persons – entrepreneurs), 5.4% of SMEs exported goods in 2018. By legal form, the representation of legal entities is predominant.

The territorial structure of SME exports showed that SME exports are particularly concentrated in the EU market (91.2% of the total SME export volume). The volume of SME exports to non-EU countries amounted to EUR 1,646.7 million, i.e. it reached the share of 8.8% of the total SME exports.

With regard to exports, SMEs were among the EU’s most important business partners in 2018: Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Among the top ten EU countries, exports to Germany and the Czech Republic grew fastest year-on-year. Among the most important non-EU business partners were: Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Serbia.

The commodity structure of SME exports also showed exceptional concentration. The top five export commodity groups of SMEs accounted for 70.2% of the total export volume of SMEs. Specifically, the commodity groups were: machinery, apparatus, electronic equipment; basic metals and articles thereof; vehicles, aircraft, transport equipment; plastics, rubber and articles thereof; and products of the chemical industry.

The sectoral structure of SME exports highlighted the importance of industry (49.3%) and trade (34.1%), which accounted for more than three-quarters of total SME exports.

SMEs based in Bratislava (32.8%), Trnava (13.9%), Nitra (12.2%), Žilina and Trenčín regions (9.7%) had a significant position in the export of SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises based in the Košice (7.1%) and Banská Bystrica Regions (6.9%) had the lowest share in exports.

Almost half of the SME export volume in 2018 was the result of activities of entities with foreign capital. SMEs with international ownership accounted for 14.0% of SME exports and those with private domestic ownership accounted for 36.5%.

The import volume of SMEs in 2018 stood at EUR 26,910.3 million, which represents a year-on-year increase in import volume by 4.5%. Within the size category of small and medium-sized enterprises, the most dynamic year-on-year growth in import volumes was recorded in the category of medium-sized enterprises (up 5.3%). For small and micro-enterprises, import volumes increased by 5.1% and 2.9%, respectively. The share of SMEs in total imports decreased by 1.3 p.p. year-on-year to 38.6%. In the foreign trade balance of small and medium-sized enterprises, the trend of increase in the passive balance continued, which was at the level of EUR 8,207.5 million in the year under review.

The territorial structure of SME imports has shown that they are predominantly oriented towards the EU single market. With regard to SMEs, these were among the EU’s most important import partners in 2018: the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. The non-EU’s most important import partners included: China, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Turkey and Vietnam.

Similar to the commodity structure of SME exports, SME imports are highly concentrated. The top five import commodity groups of SMEs accounted for 68.3% of total SME imports. Specifically, the commodity groups were: machinery, apparatus, electronic equipment; vehicles, aircraft, transport equipment; basic metals and articles thereof; chemical products and plastics, rubber and articles thereof. The volume of SME imports in the industry (25.8%) and trade (55.6%) sectors accounted for more than three-quarters of total SME imports.

SMEs based in Bratislava (45.0%), Žilina (11.2%), Nitra (10.4%) and Trnava Regions (9.4%) had a significant position in the import of SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises based in the Košice, Prešov and Banská Bystrica Regions accounted for the lowest share of SME imports (all 5.4%).

When comparing export performance with other Member States, Slovakia ranks last. Slovakia also lags behind EU countries in the number of exporting and importing SMEs in the industrial sector. This is most pronounced in the share of exporting and importing SMEs in the industrial sector to/from non-EU countries.