Israeli exports in the year 2000 came to $28.5 billion, 24.4% up from 1999, reports the Foreign Trade Administration of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Exports excluding diamonds grew by 26.6% compared with 1999, while imports increased by 16% to $36 billion.

The growth in imports was driven mainly by rising demand for consumer items and by tangible growth in the cost of energy imports, chiefly crude. Despite the growing imports, Israel's trade deficit was reduced from $8.15 billion to $7.5 billion.

The increase in exports was evident in all industrial sectors, excluding the export of agricultural products, which dropped by 17%. Much of that decline can be attributed to the devaluation in the euro in 2000.

Israel's export of electronic products came to $9.1 billion, marking a 51.6% rise.

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Israel's main export markets were Europe and North America, which each bought more than $10 billion worth of goods in 2000. Exports to the United States grew 32% from last year, while export to Asia grew 42% to $5.16 billion.

Despite a 10% drop in the euro's exchange rate against the shekel, 14% growth in dollar terms was registered in exports to the Common Market, and 15% growth was evident in exports to Europe in general.

Israeli export for the last quarter of 2000 came to $7.66 billion up 31% compared with the corresponding quarter.

Ministry of Industry and Trade director general Reuven Horesh said the data indicates that political-security events hardly affected Israeli exports, and further indicated the strength of export-bound Israeli industry.

But both import and export slowed during the second half of 2000, as did the rate of decline of the trade deficit, based on trend data.