Five Facts on World Trade
The amount and kind of trade between nations can help us understand many things, including what countries value, the structure and strength of their economies, and the condition of relations between nations. The following five facts provide a quick, big picture of the amount and kind of trade going on worldwide as well as the biggest traders.
Thanks to Learning Life intern Ian Ball for researching and drafting these five facts.
Total Global Trade
In 2014, the total value of merchandise exports worldwide was estimated at $19 trillion. Merchandise trade is the import or export of tangible goods, and does not account for the import or export of commercial services.
Source: World Trade Organization. 2015. “Modest trade recovery to continue in 2015 and 2016 following three years of weak expansion.”
The World’s Most Traded Commodities
In 2014, mineral fuels, oils, and their derivatives made up the largest fraction of merchandise exports at $3.1 trillion. These derivatives, which include petroleum, natural gas, and coal, are used to provide heating, electricity, and transportation fuel around the world. Electrical equipment (generators, cables and other electricity tools) ranked second, making up $2.4 trillion of merchandise exports.
Source: International Trade Centre. Trade Map – International Trade Statistics.
The Biggest Exporting Nations
A country’s exports are the goods and services they sell to other countries. China led the world in total exports in 2015 at $2.27 trillion. The USA ranked a close second with $2.26 trillion in total exports, followed by Germany at $1.29 trillion and Japan at $624 billion.
Source: CIA World Factbook. Country Comparison: Exports.
The Biggest Importing Nations
A country’s imports are the goods and services they buy from other countries. The USA led the world in total imports in 2015 at $2.35 trillion. China ranked second with $1.60 trillion in total imports, followed by Germany at $984 billion and Japan at $625 billion.
Source: CIA World Factbook. Country Comparison: Imports.
Nations with the Highest and Lowest Account Balances
As of 2015 China has the highest account balance, which is the difference between money made from exports and money spent on imports. In that year, China had a trade surplus of $348 billion. The same year, the USA had the lowest account balance with a trade deficit of -$461 billion.
A trade surplus is not necessarily a good thing, and a trade deficit is not always a bad thing. If a country is exporting more than it is importing, it can indicate that its people cannot afford to consume enough commodities, and have a lower standard of living. Conversely, if a country can import more than it exports, it can indicate that its people can afford to consume more, and have a higher standard of living.
Source: CIA World Factbook. Country Comparison: Current Account Balance.