Bilateral trade or clearing trade is trade exclusively between two states, particularly, barter trade based on bilateral deals between governments, and without using hard currency for payment. Bilateral trade agreements often aim to keep trade deficits at minimum by keeping a clearing account where deficit would accumulate.
The Soviet Union conducted bilateral trade with two nations, India and Finland. On the Soviet side, the trade was nationalized, but on the other side, also private capitalists negotiated deals. Relationships with politicians in charge of foreign policy were especially important for such businessmen. The framework limited the traded goods to those manufactured domestically and as such, constituted a subsidy to domestic industry.
Bilateral trade was highly popular within Finnish business circles, as it allowed the commission of very large orders, additionally with less stringent requirements for sophistication or quality, if compared to Western markets. The Soviet side was motivated to participate in clearing trade because the arrangement essentially provided cheap credit. The option was to sell obligations to the international market, and pay interest in hard currency. Capital, such as icebreakers, train carriages or consumer goods, could be obtained from Finland, and the cost would simply become clearing account deficit, eventually to be paid back as e.g. crude oil, or as orders such as nuclear power plants (Loviisa I and II).