Global exports

Global exports have increased from 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 1970 to over 22 trillion in 2015. This is a ten fold increase in only four decades. Have in mind that we calculate the exports using year 2010 prices. In other words, the increase in exports on the chart is the increase in "real exports", the actual goods and services sold across borders; it does not reflect an increase in prices.

Notice that the line on the chart is not only going up but it does so more rapidly over time. That indicates that the growth in exports is accelerating over time. The one major bump on the road is 2009 during the global financial crisis. Exports sharpy declined for a year before rebounding in 2010.


The second chart shows world exports as percent of world GDP. That too has increased rapidly from less than 15 percent in 1970 to over 25 percent in 2015. By 2015, more than a quarter of the world production was sold not in the country where it was produced but elsewhere.

There will probably come a point when we cannot expand global trade even more. Many services and products can only be produced and consumed at home. Over the past few years, global exports increased only in absolute terms but not as a percent of world GDP.
Global imports are just the reverse of global exports. Everything that is exported by one country is imported by another country. Therefore, the chart for global imports would look the same. You may find it curious, however, that this is not exactly the case. The world, in fact, is running a trade surplus with itself. Collectively, we export more than we import. That is, of course, not possible. However, the data collected by customs offices around the world are not always precise. As a result, we have a small discrepancy between global exports and global imports.


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