Introduction: Developing Countries in World Trade
For more than half a century developing countries have made enormous progress in integrating their economies into the international trading system. Growth in their international trade has exceeded growth in output, the product composition of their exports has shifted dramatically in favour of manufactures and away from primary commodities, and since the early 1990s trade in some developing countries has grown exceptionally quickly and far more than trade in developed countries.
Yet for other developing countries and groups – most prominently the LDCs, very limited progress has been evident. The output and trade of these countries 1 are growing less rapidly than those of other developing countries, and they continue to rely overwhelmingly on exports of a few primary commodities with unstable prices and subject to long-term deteriorating terms of trade. These 49 countries are in many ways already marginal in the world economy – their share of world trade fell from about 0.7 per cent in the 1980s to 0.4 per cent in the 1990s.
Integration into the world trading system depends on whether countries and their trading partners establish policies and institutions that are conducive to the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services, based on specialization and comparative advantage. The effective integration of the developing countries involves not only their own trade policies and institutions but also those of the developed countries, their main trading partners. Integration also requires them to abide by the rules of conduct that govern the multilateral trading system. These rules were established and are being implemented in the context of the agreements administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Therefore membership of and effective participation in the WTO is an essential element of, and perhaps even a necessary condition for, full integration into the world trading system. 2