About HKTDC | Media Room | Contact HKTDC | Wish List Wish List () | My HKTDC |
繁體 简体
Save As PDF Print this page

Azerbaijan: Market Profile

Picture: Azerbaijan factsheet
Picture: Azerbaijan factsheet

1. Overview

The main challenge facing Azerbaijan is to preserve the reform momentum following the economic shock of 2015-2016 and to strengthen the country's institutions so as to increase the economy's resilience in light of potential future external shocks. The economy had a modest recovery in 2017 as benign public financing, improved confidence and a favourable external environment supported non-oil economic growth; however, this was offset by a decline in oil production. Going forward, growth is expected to strengthen, driven mainly by a fiscal stimulus, a rise in hydrocarbon prices and an increase in gas exports. There were signs of recovery in Azerbaijan's financial sector in 2017, supported by the stabilisation of the managed exchange rate and growth across the non-oil sectors. Since the 2018 election, the government has appointed key ministers to initiatives focusing on tax reform, agriculture and rural development, the environment and energy.

Sources: World Bank, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

September 2016
Voters in a referendum approved constitutional changes which extended the powers of the president.

February 2017
President Ilham Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban, as first vice-president.

April 2018
Lham Aliyev re-elected in presidential elections.

August 2018
Officials from the five littoral Caspian Sea nations – Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran – agreed upon a legal framework to share the world's largest inland body of water, which bridged Asia and Europe, and has reserved of oil and gas.

Sources: BBC Country Profile – Timeline, Fitch Solutions Political Risk Analysis

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Azerbaijan real GDP and inflation
Graph: Azerbaijan real GDP and inflation
Graph: Azerbaijan GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan unemployment rate
Graph: Azerbaijan unemployment rate
Graph: Azerbaijan current account balance
Graph: Azerbaijan current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: IMF, World Bank, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Azerbaijan merchandise trade
Graph: Azerbaijan merchandise trade

e = estimate
Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

Graph: Azerbaijan major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major export markets (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major export markets (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major import markets (2017)
Graph: Azerbaijan major import markets (2017)

Sources: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Azerbaijan trade in services
Graph: Azerbaijan trade in services

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • Azerbaijan's exports remain heavily dominated by oil and petroleum-based products. According to available data, exports have an estimated value of USD15.2 billion in 2017, accounting for 40.5% of GDP, with chemical, industrial and fuel being the most important export product (90%). Azerbaijan's over-dependence on hydrocarbons has made it difficult to expand other sectors of the economy. As a result, other product exports remain relatively small, totalling around USD1.3 billion. Of that, agriculture is an important component of Azerbaijan's non-oil economy and has significant potential to boost export revenues for the country. Following the privatisation of farm properties in the post-Soviet economy, the focus of Azerbaijan's agriculture shifted to producing profit-yielding crops, such as grain, potatoes, vegetables and fruits and berries.

  • The value of total imports in Azerbaijan is estimated at USD8.8 billion in 2017, accounting for 40.5% of GDP based on currently available data. This figure is high by historical standards, with imports expanding from 20.7% of GDP in 2010. The secondary economic sector in Azerbaijan remains largely underdeveloped. As such, the country is heavily dependent on manufactured products imports.

  • Azerbaijan applied for WTO membership in June 1997 and currently holds observer status. It uses the internationally accepted classification system whereby the value of goods for customs procedures is determined in line with the general principles of the WTO. Regionally, the average tariff rate in Azerbaijan is high at 5.3%, which is the third highest, marginally ahead of Tajikistan. This is relatively uncompetitive in relation to a regional average of 3.3%. In the longer term, a reduction or even a removal of tariffs for some countries trading with Azerbaijan is likely, given the country's ongoing WTO accession while simultaneously pursuing increased cooperation with the European Union (EU) – one of its major trading partners.

  • Azerbaijan has shown a preference for bilateral agreements over multilateral trade associations and unions. For instance, Azerbaijan declined to sign the Association Agreement with the EU in the framework of the Eastern Partnership in 2014. Instead, it signed an agreement to simplify the visa regime with the EU, so the Neighbourhood Policy functions more as a political arrangement rather than leading to a free trade agreement. Likewise, the country has made clear its plans to stay outside the EU and has also chosen to remain outside of the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area (CISFTA).

  • Azerbaijan has signed bilateral investment treaties with 47 countries and agreements on the avoidance of double taxation with 52 countries.

Sources: WTO –Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions, Investment Policy Hub UNCTAD, Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (Doing Business in Azerbaijan 2017)

6. Trade Agreement

6.1 Trade Updates

The latest round of negotiations on the new, deep and comprehensive partnership agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan were held in May 2018. While there is no deadline for these talks, the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (PCC) announced in May 2018 that the agreement would be ready for ratification in 2019. The new agreement will replace the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and should take better account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today. The new EU–Azerbaijan bilateral agreement is supposed to cover political, economic and social relations, including trade and investment, human rights and rule of law, education, environment and other sectorial cooperation, including in energy and transport.

6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. The Russia Federation-Azerbaijan Free Trade Agreement (FTA): This agreement entered into force on February 17, 1993. Trade volumes in 2014 stood at an estimated USD2 billion. Russia is a net exporter to Azerbaijan.

  2. The Georgia-Azerbaijan FTA: This agreement came into force on July 10, 1996. Azerbaijan is Georgia's second-largest foreign trade partner. The trade turnover between Georgia and Azerbaijan stood at about USD188 million in 2014. Georgia exported goods worth more than USD74.5 million to Azerbaijan, while it imported over USD113.1 million worth of Azerbaijani goods and services. Azerbaijan mainly exports petroleum, petroleum oils and gases, gypsum, anhydrite, plaster and other products to Georgia; while motor cars, live bovine animals, bars and rods of iron and cement are the most imported goods from Georgia to Azerbaijan.

  3. The Ukraine-Azerbaijan FTA: This agreement came into force on September 2, 1996. Trade volumes between the two countries stood at an estimated USD420 million in 2014. Key areas include agricultural products, machinery, boilers, articles of iron or steel and other manufactured goods. Azerbaijan exports raw materials, such as fuel products, to Ukraine. Ukraine was a net exporter to Azerbaijan in 2014.

  4. The Uzbekistan-Azerbaijan FTA: This agreement, set up in 2015, stresses the importance of expanding bilateral relations between the business communities of both countries, and the implementation of joint projects to enhance economic cooperation.

  5. Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organisation: The BSEC Organisation came into existence on May 1, 1999 as a unique and promising model for regional multilateral political and economic cooperation. The member states are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. Areas for cooperation include agriculture and agro-industries, banking and finance, combatting crime, culture, customs, education, emergency assistance, energy, environmental protection, the exchange of statistical data and economic information, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, information communication technologies, institutional renewal and good governance, science and technology, SMEs, tourism, trade and economic development, and transport. This agreement continues to bolster trade between the member states.

Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database, Fitch Solutions, BSEC

Under Negotiation

  1. Bilateral FTA with China: An FTA between the two countries is still under negotiation. The impact of regional integration is significant, especially for small, open economies, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which together comprise the South Caucasus, entering into an FTA with a large economy such as China. At the same time, the FTA will have mutual economic and geopolitical benefits for all participant countries, as China is a significant global consumer of fuel products and raw materials, which constitute over 90% of Azerbaijan's export basket.

  2. The CISFTA: CISFTA is a free trade area that came into force in September 2012 between Russian, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine. Azerbaijan's economy will benefit from the country entering the free trade zone. The nation's products – particularly its fruits and vegetables, which are already popular in CIS countries – will be much easier to export. The free trade zone area was designed to reduce all trade fees on a number of goods between participating countries. Overall, the move will induce investments into Azerbaijan's economy, ease trade and stimulate employment.

  3. EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement: The EU's bilateral trade relations with Azerbaijan are governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which has been in force since 1999. In terms of trade, these are non-preferential agreements – ensuring most-favoured nation treatment and prohibiting quantitative restrictions in the bilateral trade. Azerbaijan would benefit from this agreement, since the EU accounts for over 50% of Azerbaijan's total trade volumes. The PCA envisages progressive regulatory approximation of legislation and practices to the most important EU trade-related standards, including technical regulations, intellectual property rights protection and customs issues. This should lead to better access to the EU markets for goods. Ratification is contingent on the Azerbaijani government's willingness to change regulations in line with EU standards. The EU has shown its willingness to negotiate a deep and comprehensive FTA with Azerbaijan, contingent on the country joining the WTO.

Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database, Fitch Solutions, European Commission

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Azerbaijan FDI stock
Graph: Azerbaijan FDI stock
Graph: Azerbaijan FDI flow
Graph: Azerbaijan FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. Azerbaijan welcomes FDI, and the country has attempted to boost its investment profile on the international stage. However, key structural challenges facing the economy are hampering the development of non-oil sectors. In spite of this, there has been an increasing amount of interest in the country, particularly from other emerging markets. The foreign investment regime in Azerbaijan has been liberalised in recent years as part of President Ilham Aliyev and his government's commitment to diversify the economy and to make the country more attractive in the international marketplace. Foreign investors are free to engage in investment activities in most sectors. However, foreign citizens and organisations may not own land and can instead only lease it, which affects the security and cost of investment in many sectors.

  2. Under Azerbaijani law, foreigners may freely establish, acquire and dispose of interests in business enterprises and so, technically, there are no foreign equity limits. Investors may engage in the privatisation of government-owned properties and can invest in the private sector through joint ventures with local companies or by establishing subsidiaries that are wholly owned, as well as through representative offices and branches of foreign legal entities. Azerbaijani law also offers foreigners a 10-year protection provision in the event of new, less favourable legislation being implemented, thereby shielding foreign investors and keeping the country an attractive investment prospect. This does not, however, apply to tax legislation, which poses considerable risks in the event of significant corporate tax hikes.

  3. Foreigners legally enjoy investment freedom; however, access to markets, credit and other business operations is, in practice, often impeded by cumbersome bureaucratic roadblocks. Certain industries are faced with licensing, heavy regulatory requirements, and corruption-related legal risks.

  4. The Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation emphasises an ever-improving reformist business environment and 10 'nos' that support a good investment climate: No state inspections (excluding tax, human health and state security reasons); no discrimination between foreign and domestic investors; no prior authorisation requirement for foreign investment; no licensing for currency operations involving the movement of capital; no foreign exchange restrictions; no limits on the amount of foreign capital in companies; no technology transfer restrictions; no legal limitation on ownership; no restrictions on repatriation of profits; and no local counterpart requirement.

  5. In January 2016, President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on measures to promote inward investments. Rules were approved for issuing an Investment Promotion Document (IPD) that would serve as a basis for granting tax and customs benefits to any approved new business in a desired area of economic activity, the location in one of five designated regions and a minimum amount of investment. Incentives lasting seven years include exemption from value-added tax (VAT), customs duties, land tax, property tax and 50% reduced corporate income tax.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, ITA, United States Department of Commerce, Azerbaijan Export & Investment Promotion Foundation

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
Industrial parks: There are five industrial parks for which Azerbaijan has created the integrated infrastructure and reduced the costs of doing business by offering attractive tax incentives and simpler customs procedures.- Sumgait Chemical Industrial Park was established in December 2011. Investors benefit from the availability of universities specialising in scientific studies; a vocational school on site specialising in the field of chemistry, mechanics and construction; a specific laboratory on site supplied with modern equipment; skilled scientific personnel, full range of analytical services, laboratories, strong R&D network, and on-site tests; and seven different workshops that will serve R&D and studies.

- Balakhani Eco-Industrial Park was established in December 2012, this park is strategically located and investors benefit from a road connection to the Balakhani-Binagady highway. The park was established close to a waste landfill and a waste-to-energy plant provides raw materials and energy to the park residents, which include firms involved in the polyethylene, cooking oil and waste, plastic, and paper sectors.

- Mingachevir Industrial Park was established in February 2015. This park aims to attract companies operating in light industries, including manufacturing of textile, cotton and leather products. The investment projects planned for the park include the production of shoes, yarn, dyeing, weaving, sewing and medical cosmetics.

- Garadagh Industrial Park was established in June 2015 to the south of the Absheron peninsula, near the Garadagh district of the Baku-Astara highway. The park hosts one resident, namely Baku Shipyard, the most modern shipbuilding and ship-repair facility in the Caspian Sea. The attracted investment has reached USD470 million. Like the other parks, the government is developing the physical infrastructure to enable businesses to operate in the park. The park is focused on the production of competitive products for the shipbuilding industry, utilising modern production techniques and practices.

- Pirallahi Industrial Park was established in September 2016. This park focuses on companies operating in the pharmaceutical industry. There are currently three projects being implemented worth USD100 million.

- Investors receive incentives and support in getting established through the availability of a one-stop-shop; support in receipt of technical conditions, permits and licences; work permits; environmental monitoring; favourable tariff costs for utilities; as well as from registration of a seven-year tax holiday from: corporate and income tax, property tax, land tax, and VAT for facilities and goods imported for production purposes.
Agro-parks: There are three agro-parks, established to try to boost agriculture.- Established in 2015, Garabagh Agrarian Industrial Park is in Barda.

- The facility includes a 5,000-tonne logistic center, cattle-breeding complexes, a meat-cutting and processing factory, and a fodder plant.

- Building on this initiative, two new agro-parks, Shamkir and Yalama, have been developed. Shamkir includes a logistics centre, a cold storage centre and a calibration hall for fruit and vegetables. The facilities use the latest technology in calibration, packaging and labelling. Yalama has a modern gravity-powered irrigation system that enables spring corn to be sowed.

- Investors in the agro-park will be exempt from income tax and VAT.
High-Tech Park (HTP) – for fields such as mobile technologies, information technologies, software engineering, space and telecommunications, robotics and mechanics, LED technology, biotechnology, research in energy efficiency, alternative energy and other innovations. Two such parks currently exist in Baku and Mingachevir.Investors benefit from the availability of office spaces along with R&D and assembly facilities that will be made available for eligible resident and partner companies. Both local and international academic institutions will be signed on as partners to provide training for resident and partner employees and also generate a streamlined, local and qualified workforce. Start-ups, residents and partner companies will be provided with a wide range of business support services, varying from business plan development to local marketing, from sourcing support to investor relations.

Residents and companies operating in HTP are eligible to rent-subsidised offices, facilities and land. Residents and companies operating in HTP are exempt from paying the VAT on imported infrastructural and technological goods and services. Residents and companies located in the HTP land are exempt from profit taxes for the seven-year period they operate in the park.

Sources: US Department of Commerce, Fitch Solutions, Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation

8. Taxation – 2018


9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Foreign Worker Permits

Foreign nationals travelling to Azerbaijan to take employment have to obtain work and temporary residence permits. The State Migration Service issues these for a period of up to one year. The term of validity can be extended every year for another period of up to one year. Work permits are not required by:

  • permanent residents
  • persons engaged in entrepreneurship activities in Azerbaijan
  • staff of diplomatic missions, consulates and international organisations
  • heads and deputy heads of organisations established by international agreements
  • persons employed by relevant executive authorities
  • persons on secondment in certain statutorily listed areas for no more than 90 days a year
  • heads and deputy heads of branches and representative offices of foreign legal entities in Azerbaijan
  • heads and deputy heads of legal entities founded in Azerbaijan by a foreign legal entity or a foreign individual, and
  • some other categories of foreign nationals

9.2 Localisation Requirements

Azerbaijan operates a quota for migrant workers, which was set at 12,000, and the government encourages businesses to hire from the domestic labour pool unless specialist skills are required which cannot be supplied by the Azerbaijani labour market. This makes it more difficult to import skilled foreign workers, as there is an imposed limit on work permits for expatriates. Generally, in order to obtain a work permit in the country, a foreigner must have at least five years' experience in the field. This blocks the flow of unskilled workers from abroad and boosts a more effective use of local labour. On the positive side, the process of obtaining permits for foreign workers has been streamlined since the introduction of the 'one window' service, whereby applications are submitted to one government department – the State Migration service – which then works with other agencies to issue work permits and other necessary documentation. This eases the bureaucratic burden of employing foreign workers.

9.3 Visa/Travel Restrictions

Citizens of the following nine countries can visit Azerbaijan without a visa for up to 90 days: Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa for Azerbaijan on arrival, valid for 30 days, at any international airport: Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea and UAE.

Sources: Government websites, Fitch Solutions, Azerbaijan Export & Investment Promotion Foundation (Doing Business in Azerbaijan 2017)

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Ba2 (Stable)18/08/2017
Standard & Poor'sBB+ (Stable)
Fitch Ratings
BB+ (Stable)27/07/2018

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World CompetitivenessN/A

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World Ranking
Economic Risk Index Rank112/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score39.644.652.1
Long-Term Economic Risk Score47.452.849.9
Political Risk Index Rank156/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score68.362.962.9
Long-Term Political Risk Score49.349.849.8
Operational Risk Index Rank62/201
Operational Risk Score55.257.757.6

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

The economic growth outlook for Azerbaijan remains subdued as the country remains overwhelmingly dependent on oil and gas revenues for GDP growth. Over 75% of Azerbaijan's exports and 40% of its economic output rely on energy. It is, therefore, expected that the government will gradually carry out its economic diversification and privatisation plans. A major risk to the economy will continue to be banking sector weakness, which will require further capital injections from the central bank and result in subdued loan growth, weighing on economic activity.

Azerbaijan's lack of direct access to international maritime trade routes and the fragile security situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region heighten risks for investors. Its oil-reliant economy has been hit by a series of negative shocks – particularly a marked drop in global oil prices. Muted economic growth, liquidity challenges and trade balance pressures will weigh on Azerbaijan in the medium term, despite low labour and utilities costs. Nevertheless, the government continues to invest in infrastructure and is keen to attract foreign investment to diversify its economy, thereby decreasing its long-run exposure to commodity price shocks.

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 10, 2018

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indicies

Graph: Azerbaijan short term political risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan short term political risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan long term political risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan long term political risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan short term economic risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan short term economic risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan long term economic risk index
Graph: Azerbaijan long term economic risk index

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Economic and Political Risk Indices
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Azerbaijan Score57.660.358.059.452.8
Caucasus and Central Asia Average49.654.952.046.644.9
Caucasus and Central Asia Position (out of 8)332
Emerging Europe Average56.954.158.458.5
Emerging Europe Position (out of 31)154
Global Average49.649.749.949.149.8
Global Position (out of 201)6235

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Azerbaijan vs global and regional averages
Graph: Azerbaijan vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk Index
Labour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
Regional Averages49.654.952.046.644.9
Emerging Markets Averages46.848.047.545.746.0
Global Markets Averages49.649.749.949.149.8

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Azerbaijan

Graph: Major export commodities to Azerbaijan (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Azerbaijan (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Azerbaijan (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Azerbaijan (2017)

Note: Graph shows the main Hong Kong exports to/import from Azerbaijan (by consignment)
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

Graph: Merchandise exports to Azerbaijan
Graph: Merchandise exports to Azerbaijan
Graph: Merchandise imports from Azerbaijan
Graph: Merchandise imports from Azerbaijan

Note: Graph shows Hong Kong exports to/import from Azerbaijan (by consignment)
Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.76 (2013)
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Sources: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

Growth rate (%)
Number of Azerbaijan residents visiting Hong Kong486

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions

Growth rate (%)
Number of European residents visiting Hong Kong1,929,824

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Azerbaijan companies in Hong KongN/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

11.3 Treaties and Agreements between Hong Kong and Azerbaijan

A bilateral investment treaty has been in force between China and Azerbaijan since April 1, 1995.

Sources: Investment Policy Hub, UNCTAD

11.4 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Hong Kong residents are required to apply for a 30-day or 90-day visa to visit Azerbaijan.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Azerbaijan
Date last reviewed: November 6, 2018

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research
Comments (0)
Shows local time in Hong Kong (GMT+8 hours)

HKTDC welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers.
Review our Comment Policy

*Add a comment (up to 5,000 characters)