Why has world trade grown faster than world output?

Quarterly Bulletin 2004 Q3
Published on 24 September 2004

By Mark Dean of the Bank's International Economic Analysis Division and Maria Sebastia-Barriel of the Bank's Structural Economic Analysis Division. 

Between 1980 and 2002, world trade has more than tripled while world output has 'only' doubled. The rise in trade relative to output is common across countries and regions, although the relative growth in trade and output varies greatly. This article attempts to explain why the ratio of world trade to output has increased over recent decades. It provides a brief review of the key determinants of trade growth and identifies proxies that will enable us to quantify the relative importance of the different channels. We estimate this across a panel of ten developed countries. This will allow us to understand better the path of world trade and thus the demand for UK exports. Furthermore this approach will help us to distinguish between long-run trends in trade growth and cyclical movements around it.

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