World trade is the driving force behind growth

  • 21 October 1999

It is vitally important to the hopes of millions for a better life that the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue the beneficial process of opening up world markets started more than 50 years ago and carried forward over eight successive negotiating rounds.

To appreciate this, one needs only to look at the annual statistics showing that growth in world trade invariably far outstrips growth in world output and demonstrating the increasing share that trade occupies year by year in global economic activity.

The value of world merchandise trade reached about $5.5 trillion in 1997. In 1990 it was less than $3.5 trillion. In 1990 developed countries accounted for over 70% of the total but by 1997 their share had dropped below 64%. The share lost shifted mainly to developing countries.

United Nations World Economic and Social Survey 1998

World output grew in real terms at an average annual rate of 3.7% between 1948 and 1997 compared with world trade growth of 6%. Between 1950 and 1997, international trade flows multiplied by a factor of 17, while output increased six-fold.

WTO Annual Report 1998

Annual foreign direct investment expanded almost 17-fold between 1973 and 1996, from $21.5 billion to almost $350 billion. FDI stocks jumped from $165 billion at the end of 1973 to $3.205 billion in 1996.

WTO Annual Report 1998