Over the last two or three decades, industrialization has proceeded very slowly in the Third World as a whole. The contribution of manufacturing to GDP is around 18 per cent, only a couple of points higher than it was in 1960. As a result the world export trade in manufactured goods is still dominated (about 80 per cent) by developed countries.
However, aggregate data can be very misleading and the Third World exhibits considerable diversity in manufacturing. One must be careful, in interpreting regional and national data to distinguish between overall levels of production and relative importance in world trade. Indicators of the former reveal that the largest producers are those countries with huge populations and, therefore, the biggest domestic markets. Thus China’s manufacturing output is double that of the second nation, Brazil, whilst countries such as Singapore rank much further down the list.
On the other hand, indicators of manufactured exports show a different picture, with Pacific Asian countries dominating (Figure 7.1). South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are particularly important in this respect, with the first two alone accounting for a large proportion of the Third World’s manufactured exports. When the data are calculated on a per-capita basis, Hong Kong and Singapore are world leaders in terms of manufactured exports, being 50 per cent greater than West Germany, the principal developed nation.