UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2012 shows growing Economic influence of developing countries

14 December 2012

The expanding contribution of developing countries to the global economy, led by shipbuilding and the manufacture of electronics, is revealed in the UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2012 , released today.

Led by industrialized Asian economies, developing countries have steadily increased their contribution to world exports over the last decade, the Handbook shows. In 2011, such countries' exports of manufactured goods accounted for up to 40.4 per cent of the global total. Their share of the most heavily exported manufactured products - including computer equipment, telecommunication equipment parts, valves, tubes, diodes, transistors, and office equipment parts and accessories - came to more than 60 per cent of the world total for the calendar years 2010-2011. That was a gain of more than 30 percentage points compared to 1995-1996.

The most rapid rise in export share for developing economies has occurred in the field of ship construction, the report indicates. In 2010-2011, ships and floating structures (cruise and cargo ships, barges, and other vessels) built in developing economies grew to 64.7 per cent of the global total - a climb of 37.4 percentage points from 1995-1996. The principal net exporters were the Republic of Korea, China and India. The main destinations were Singapore, China, and Hong Kong (China), as well as "open registry" countries such as, notably, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama.

Developing economies' market share increased the most between 1995-1996 and 2010-2011 for the following export products:


The updated statistical publication covers international trade flows, investment, commodity prices, maritime transport, and other economic and social data, for most countries. It provides a broad range of statistics covering individual countries, regions, various economic groupings and the world at large. It is meant to provide essential data for the analysis and evaluation of world trade, investment, international financial flows, and development. UNCTAD, to the extent possible, furnishes estimates to fill in data gaps and provides comprehensive datasets for analysis when official statistics are incomplete due to a shortage of statistical capacity.

The publication notes that the growing importance of developing-country exports reflects, in part, the internationalization of global value chains. Increasingly, the manufacturing of products such as electronics and their components involves several countries. After each stage of production, the goods are exported for further processing; each time they are valued at their full gross values, not just in terms of the value added.

It is also significant that the greater economic weight of developing countries has provided resilience in the wake of the global recession. Their exports of ships and floating structures have grown in each of the past 10 years, even during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. And the positive economic growth of developing economies in recent years has, on balance, compensated for downturns or stagnation in a number of developed countries from 2009 to 2011.

Among the topics covered in the Handbook are:

  • International merchandise trade and international trade in services;

  • Commodity prices, including long-term series and calculations on the volatility of prices;

  • The world merchant shipping fleet;

  • International financial performance, including current-account balances, foreign direct investment, migrants' remittances, the international reserves of developing economies, official financial flows, and long-term external debt; and

  • Development indicators linked to national accounts, such as GDP, population figures, and labour force statistics.