World Trade Month – Fun Facts & Resources

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“Every man lives by exchanging.” ~Adam Smith

On average, almost everyone has witnessed the birth of two nations each year of his or her existence. So, if you are 50 years old, then about 100 new countries will have been created since your birth. Membership of the United Nations (UN) grew from 51 original members in 1945 (there were 74 nation-states at that time) to 191 in 2002.

Did you know?

Around 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. There are over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations, and manned by over a million seafarers of virtually every nationality. (Source)

The top 10 traders in merchandise trade accounted for a little over half (52%) of the world’s total trade in 2013. The top 10 traders in world commercial services represent half of the world’s total trade in commercial services. (Source)

Openness to trade and investment is an important driver of growth and poverty reduction – including in developing countries. A 10 percentage point increase in trade openness translates into 4% increase in per capita income.

Treaties set out the basics for international sales, arbitration, patents, trademarks, transport and other issues. Ratifying them sends a signal that the country is adopting an internationally-recognized, safe legal context in which to conduct trade. The UN treaty section alone contains over 40,000 treaties published in over 1,900 hard-copy volumes. The most important trade treaties signed in the last 50 years, however, number about 200.  (Source:

On the export side, liner trade is dominated by countries in East Asia. Liner exports are also highly concentrated, with the top ten exporting nations accounting for more than two-thirds of the total liner export value, and Greater China (including mainland China, Hong Kong S.A.R. and Taiwan, China) account for 28 percent of the value of liner exports and 30 percent of the global volume of containerized exports. (Source) 

The evidence is getting stronger that global capital flows likewise raise GDP. One estimate indicates that a 1 percentage point increase in the ratio of the foreign direct investment stock to GDP raises GDP in emerging nations by 0.7 percent. The gains from foreign portfolio equity holdings are equally robust. Hufbauer and Dobson, World Capital Markets: Challenge to the G-10, Institute for International Economics, 2001.

Try it for yourself:  IMF’s Trading Around the World game

More trade statistics:

UN Comtrade:
World Trade Atlas:
United States International Trade Commission:
Integrated Trade Intelligence Portal (World Trade Organization):
FAO Stat:
World Bank WITS:

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