Trends in Developing-Country Trade, 1980–99
The period covered in this study, 1980–1999, witnessed a rapid expansion of world trade and a slightly more rapid expansion of developing-country trade. The share of developing-country trade in total world merchandise trade (exports plus imports) was somewhat higher at the end of the period than at the beginning – 28.8 per cent as opposed to 27.4 per cent (Tables 2.1 and 2.2). A similar picture emerged in trade in services. While the data on services are much less complete than for merchandise trade, there is little doubt about the overall trends: trade in services grew even faster than merchandise trade; and there was a rise in the share of developing-country exports.
At the same time, on average, GDP growth was much less than the growth in trade for developed and developing countries alike. Using the ratio of total trade to GDP as an indicator of integration into world trade, on average developing countries were more integrated at the end of the century than they had been 20 years earlier. This was the result of a long-term trend and an important dimension of the globalization process.
These overall trends, however, disguise very different patterns during some of the subperiods and among different developing countries and groups. Broadly speaking, the data show that the 1980s were pretty much a ‘lost’ decade for many different developing countries and groups, but during the 1990s the trade of practically all major developing-country groupings grew faster than that of the developed countries, and in many cases it was very rapid indeed. The major exceptions were the LDCs and some low-income countries whose growth in the 1990s was less than world trade as a whole. As a consequence these countries, whose trade was already marginal in terms of the world totals, were marginalized even further.