In 1995, the United States had a trade deficit with Bulgaria of $51 million,
$51 million less than in 1994. U.S. merchandise exports to Bulgaria totaled $132
million, $22 million or 20 percent greater than those in 1994. Bulgaria was the
United States' one hundred-first largest export market in 1995. U.S. imports
from Bulgaria totaled $183 million in 1995, a $29 million decrease from
In 1995, Bulgaria's economy continued to gain momentum after bottoming out in
1993. GDP grew by 2.5 percent, inflation was held to under 33 percent (after
exploding to 122 percent in 1994), interest rates fell by half to their lowest
point since the transition to a market economy began, and the exchange rate
remained fairly stable under tight monetary policy. Bulgaria's foreign trade,
which continued to be increasingly oriented towards Europe, went into
Nevertheless, macroeconomic stability is fragile, and Bulgaria has yet to
undertake the structural reforms required to control losses in state-owned
industries and place the banking sector in a solvent condition. Without an
agreement with the World Bank and IMF, Bulgaria will be hard-pressed to finance
fully the $1.25 billion in external debt payments which come due in 1996.
Bulgaria's Socialist government has hesitated to take hard decisions to close
down large loss-making state enterprises and insolvent banks. Privatization of
state-owned businesses has stagnated, although a voucher privatization program
was inaugurated in January, 1996.
A U.S.-Bulgaria bilateral trade agreement providing mutual
most-favored-nation status has been in place since 1991.
Average Bulgarian import tariffs are relatively high, including in areas of
key concern to U.S. exporters, such as food products, and agricultural goods and
inputs. Unlike some other countries in the region, Bulgaria still applies
tariffs to capital goods intended for the operation of investment projects. Some
U.S. investors report that high import tariffs on products needed for the
operation of their establishments in Bulgaria serve as a significant barrier to
In January 1996, Bulgaria implemented tariff rate quotas for certain products
(mainly agricultural and some pharmaceutical) under Council of Ministers decree
Bulgaria's Association Agreement with the EU phases out industrial product
tariffs between Bulgaria and the EU while U.S. exporters still face duties. In
some instances, this has created in most sectors a competitive disadvantage for
U.S. exporters. The Agreement provides improved reciprocal market access to
certain farm products.
Bulgaria is currently in the process of acceding to the WTO. The United
States is seeking to resolve its tariff concerns through bilateral negotiations
related to Bulgaria's accession.
There are no standardized government-wide regulations addressing public
procurement. Bidders complain that tendering processes are frequently subject to
irregularities, fueling speculation that corruption is pervasive.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
The U.S.–Bulgaria bilateral Trade and Intellectual Property Agreement
required Bulgaria to implement regulations to protect intellectual property, and
to accede to major international IPR conventions. Adoption of new patent and
copyright laws brought the Bulgarian IPR system up to international standards
generally, but enforcement remains seriously deficient.
In April, 1995, following a government-to-government exchange of letters with
the United States, Bulgaria agreed to strengthen copyright protection and
enforcement. As a result, during 1995, Bulgaria acceded to the Rome and Geneva
Phonograms Conventions, enacted changes to the penal code to make IPR
infringements subject to criminal prosecution and imprisonment, and took action
against some producers and distributors of pirated products.
In December, 1995, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry
(IFPI) signed an agreement with the major distributor of pirated sound
recordings under which the latter committed itself to deal only in licensed
products. A local IFPI chapter has also been established. Nevertheless, video
compact disc and computer program piracy remains a serious concern. The problem
is compounded by the export of many of these illegal recordings to other
Other U.S. industries report that lack of effective IPR enforcement
(including inadequate penalties for infringement) prevents their greater
investment in Bulgaria. They also cite the illegal use of trademarks as a
barrier to the Bulgarian market.
On September 23, 1992, the United States and Bulgaria signed a bilateral
investment treaty, which was implemented on May 3,1994.
Overall U.S. investment in Bulgaria remains low compared to other countries
in the region. Besides the tariff and intellectual property problems cited in
the previous sections, U.S. industries also report that the lack of transparency
of regulations is a significant barrier to investment. Other companies cite a
lack of coherent government strategy to encourage investment. Some companies
have also reported crime as a barrier to investment.