Our figure of the month 05/2019: The triangularity of world export flows


The dominance of advanced economies persists

Since the Second World War, world trade has continued to grow, encouraged by the reduction of trade barriers, for example within the framework of GATT/WTO, the integration of Europe or due to the numerous multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements worldwide. For many economies, such as Germany, the dynamics of world trade have developed into an important pillar of growth.

However, participation in world trade is highly concentrated regionally. The graph shows the distribution of world trade (expressed in export flows) for the year 2015 between advanced economies, emerging markets and least developed economies. The imbalance in trade relations becomes clear: 50% of world trade takes place exclusively between advanced economies. Even though this means a reduction of 10% points compared to 2005, the dominance of the industrialized nations in world trade remains high. The narrow base of the blue triangle also makes it clear that exports from advanced economies to emerging markets and least developed economies are low.


Emerging markets or even least developed economies, on the other hand, account for only a small share of world trade - around one third in 2015. Intra trade is also less important than exports to advanced economies. A breakdown by economic sector clearly shows where the focus is: raw materials, textiles and clothing. On the other hand, industrial sectors with higher value-added shares, such as pharmaceuticals or the automotive industry, are dominated even more intensively by the industrialized countries.

Other figures can be found here.

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