In the years that it was part of the Soviet Union, Estonia provided the USSR with gas and oil produced from its large supply of oil shale. It is still the world's second largest producer of oil shale. The majority of its workforce is involved in industry, which also includes mining, shipbuilding, information technology, and the manufacture of wood products, electronic and telecommunications equipment, textiles and clothing, and machinery. Its efficient agricultural sector employs some 11% of the labor force and produces meat (largely pork), dairy products, potatoes, flax, and sugar beets. Fishing is also important. Peat, phosphorite, clays, limestone, sand, dolomite, marl, and timber are important natural resources.
The country began small-scale privatization in 1991 and during the 1990s auctioned off several larger industries; it has also actively sought foreign investment. Estonia subsequently experienced significant economic growth, but also suffered more than most European Union nations during the 2008–9 global recession. The nation exports machinery and equipment, wood and paper, textiles, food products, furniture, metals, chemicals, fertilizers, and electric power. Imports include machinery, chemical products, textiles, foodstuffs, and transportation equipment. Estonia's major trade partners are Finland, Sweden, Germany, Russia, and its fellow Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.