The newly launched report, which will appear annually, covers a range of trends and indicators, including statistics on sectoral, regional and South-South trade, on export diversification and sophistication, and on intra-industry trade. Its aim is to present factual information on global trade in a concise and accessible manner, and to provide useful background information for government delegates, policymakers, and others working in the global trade arena.
The publication shows that, notwithstanding the economic crisis, world trade has increased dramatically over the past decade, rising almost threefold since 2002 to reach about $18.5 trillion in 2012. Developing countries have assumed an increasing share in these trade flows, and they now account for almost half of global exports. And yet, data at the regional level reveal that developing countries' integration into the global economy is characterized by wide variations in performance, with East Asia continuing to dominate these flows of merchandise. Increased demand in developing (especially middle-income) countries, paired with a fragmentation of production processes, has resulted in a rapid increase in South-South trade, the report says.
Trade patterns across different categories of products, and across economic sectors, are also examined in the publication. The last decade has seen an overall increase in the importance of primary products in world trade, prompted by a surge in demand in emerging markets and by a consequent rise in commodity prices. Notably, the energy-related sector is the largest (and fastest-growing) in terms of value of trade. It now accounts for about a fifth of world trade.
The report notes that the dependence of many developing countries on exports of natural resources and other commodities makes them particularly vulnerable to price movements in international markets. Despite these countries' efforts to diversify, the export basket of many developing - and particularly low-income - countries has remained tied to unprocessed products that have lower technological content and value addition, and therefore limited growth potential.