Unequal trade

Posted: 14 December 2007

World trade has grown 27-fold in volume terms since 1950, three times faster than world output growth... "but progress has been uneven and success limited in some areas." (source: World Trade Report, The GATT/WTO at 60, WTO December 2007.

  • The richest 20 per cent of the world's population account for over 80 per cent of the trade.

  • The poorest 20 per cent (some 1.3 billion people) have little contact with international trade. While the participation of the least-developed countries in world merchandise trade has increased in absolute terms since 1990, the countries accounted for only 0.6 per cent of world exports and 0.8 per cent of world imports in 2004.

  • In the 1990s, world trade grew at 6 per cent a year, developing countries trade by 8.3 per cent a year, but Africa's share of world trade declined sharply. In 2005, however, Africa recorded its largest share in world merchandise exports since the mid-1980s.

  • The average person in a developing country selling into world markets confronts barriers that are roughly twice as high as those faced by counterparts in industrial nations.
  • Farm subsidies and indirect supports of nearly $300 billion per year allow food crops exported by farmers in industrial countries to be sold at prices 20-50 percent below the cost of production, undermining farmers in developing nations.
  • In Mexico, Peru, and Colombia, farmers are turning to drug crops like opium, coca, or cannabis because their food crops cannot compete with cheaper, mass-produced imports.

  • Advertising spending in the United States totalled $235 billion in 2002, more than half of the world's total advertising market.