For use of information media - Not an official record

18 December 2002

It might sound like a truism to say that countries with small populations and similar income levels tend to trade more than large ones. The fact is, however, that smaller countries, with smaller domestic markets, need to specialize in goods and services they can produce efficiently if they are to realize greater total outputs - hence, they tend to be more involved in international trade.

A new UNCTAD publication, the Handbook of Statistics 2002 (1), released today, demonstrates such theory empirically, enabling this and similar comparisons to be made between such indicators as per capita GDP and total merchandise trade per capita. In this particular illustration, Japan, the US and Luxembourg rank near the top for both GDP and trade, while countries like India, Nicaragua and Uganda are both relatively poorer and engage in less trade (graph).

The Handbook, now in its fourth decade of publication, is a numerical reflection of the complex issues of international trade and development. Available on CD-ROM, in print, and as an online database, it permits its users - government, academia, international organizations and other researchers - to analyse trends based on time series going as far back as 1950, and in most cases up to 2001. Using the Handbook, one can discover, for example, the striking evolution in the relative price of oil with respect to coffee: in 1962, a barrel of crude was worth 2.8 kilos of coffee, while today, the same barrel buys nearly 10 times as much (23.1 kilos) (table 1). Users of the Handbook will also discover that remittances sent back to Albania and El Salvador by nationals working abroad currently amount to 75% and 48%, respectively, of their exports of goods and services (the two countries have the highest such percentages worldwide) (table 2).

The Handbook contains data on:

  • International merchandise trade (values, growth rates, trends and regional trade zones), and trade in services;
  • Export and import structure, by product and by region of origin and destination;
  • Trade concentration and structural change in trade indices;
  • International finance (current accounts, foreign direct investment, external indebtedness, workers´ remittances, international reserves, etc.);
  • Selected development, social and telecommunications indicators; and
  • Commodity prices and price indices.

In addition, for the first time this year the Handbook of Statistics contains data sets on environmental protection and tourism; instability indices for primary commodity prices; import tariffs; production and trade in agricultural products and metals, ores and minerals; and diversification and structural change in trade indices.

The Handbook provides insight into such specific topics as:

  • Recent changes in the destinations of developing countries´ exports, and which of those exports experienced the highest growth in the second half of the 20th century;
  • Trade or economic groups whose intra-trade represents more than 50% of their total exports; and
  • Countries whose international reserves match the value of their annual imports.

Handbook available in three formats

Of the three formats available, the CD-ROM version of the UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2002 is the most comprehensive, permitting the presentation of full time series. Its user-friendly data browser enables one-click pivoting, charting, sorting, aggregating or exporting, all of which allows for quicker reference, improved usage and deeper analytical insights. The print version is a consolidated reference for selected statistics considered by UNCTAD to be of particular importance in analysing trade and development trends. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with the CD-ROM. Data are presented analytically, through rank orderings, growth rates, shares and other special calculations, with a view to facilitating their interpretation.

Finally, the online version can be accessed interactively. Users can browse through the default data sets, choose new items and construct completely new presentations. The selected data can then be rearranged, charted and extracted as a worksheet file, or saved as a custom query.


1. The UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2002 is available in print for US$ 80 (Sales No. E/F.03.II.D.2, ISBN 92-1-012048-5); on CD-ROM, for US$ 150 (Sales No. E/F.02.II.D.22, ISBN 92-1-012047-7), or at a special price of US$ 195 for both the print and CD-ROM versions. It may be ordered from Section des Ventes et Commercialisation, Bureau E-4, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, T: +41 22 907 2606/2613, F: +41 22 917 0027, E: unpubli@unog.ch; or United Nations Publications Sales and Marketing Section, Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-853, New York, NY 10017, USA, T: +1 212 963 8302 or +1 800 253 9646, F: +1 212 963 3489, E: publications@un.org, Internet: www.un.org.

For more information, please contact:
Head, Henri Laurencin
Central Statistics and Information Retrieval Branch
Division on Globalization and Development Strategies
T: +41 22 907 5734
F: +41 22 907 0048
E: henri.laurencin@unctad.org
Press Officer, Erica Meltzer
T: +41 22 907 5828/5365
F: +41 22 907 0043
E: press@unctad.org.


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