Trade structure by partner

In 2017, China and the United States of America both traded goods worth US$1 trillion with their neighbours
North traded as much with the South as with the North: US$6.3 trillion
Most European and Asian trade is intra-regional
China is the main export destination for goods from LDCs in Africa and Haiti: US$28 million in 2017
Main world import flows, 2017
Map Main world import flows, 2017

Notes: Bilateral imports of US$100 billion or more are shown.

Find the data on UNCTADstat

Shape of the global trade network

The world's largest bilateral flows of merchandise trade run between China and the United States of America, and between their respective neighboring economies. In 2017, goods worth US$526 billion were imported by the United States from China. Goods worth US$154 billion also travelled in the opposite direction. China's trade with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Japan, Taiwan, Province of China, and the Republic of Korea totaled US$1.1 trillion. The United States' trade with Mexico and Canada was worth almost the same amount (US$1.0 trillion).

At a continental level, intra-region trade was most pronounced in Europe. In 2017, 68 per cent of all European exports were exported to trading partners on the same continent. In Asia, this rate was 59 per cent. By contrast, in Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Northern America, most trade was extra-regional.

Figure 1Intra- and extra-group exports, 2017 (Percentage of total exports)

Trade within and between ‘hemispheres’

In 2017, of the total US$17.7 trillion of global merchandise trade, US$6.3 trillion were exchanged between developed economies (North-North trade), whereas trade among developing and transition economies (South-South trade) accounted for US$4.9 trillion. The remaining US$6.3 trillion were comprised of exports from developed to developing economies and in the opposite direction (North-South, and South-North trade). Thus, for developed economies, trade with developing economies was as important as trade with developed.

Figure 2Global trade flows, 2017
Trade within and between ‘hemispheres’, 2016 treemap

Note: North refers to developed economies; South, to developing and transition economies. Trade is measured from the export side.

With whom do developing economies mainly trade?

In 2017, developing economies shipped most of their exports to the United States of America (US$1.3 trillion), and then to China (US$1.0 trillion) and other Asian economies. They also sourced most of the imports from the same economies.

For least developed countries (LDCs), the top export destination was China. LDCs in Africa and Haiti delivered goods worth US$28 billion to China, more than to any other economy in the world. Exports of LDCs in Asia were more oriented towards the United States of America and Europe.

Figure 3LDCs’ main export destinations, 2017 (Billions of United States dollars)

Summary tables

Table 1

Exports by origin and destination, 2017

(Billions of United States dollars)

Origin

Destination

World

Developing economies

Transition economies

Developed
economies

Total

Africa

America

Asia and Oceania

World

17 689

7 323

536

987

5 800

430

9 725

(100)

(41)

(3)

(6)

(33)

(2)

(55)

Developing economies

7 865

4 498

312

400

3 786

137

3 199

(100)

(57)

(4)

(5)

(48)

(2)

(41)

Developing economies: Africa

412

215

69

9

138

3

186

(100)

(52)

(17)

(2)

(34)

(1)

(45)

Developing economies: America

994

383

17

165

201

8

597

(100)

(39)

(2)

(17)

(20)

(1)

(60)

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

6 460

3 900

227

226

3 447

127

2 416

(100)

(60)

(4)

(3)

(53)

(2)

(37)

Transition economies

553

151

15

7

129

92

257

(100)

(27)

(3)

(1)

(23)

(17)

(46)

Developed economies

9 270

2 674

209

580

1 886

201

6 269

(100)

(29)

(2)

(6)

(20)

(2)

(68)

Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 2

Exports by origin and destination, selected years

(Billions of United States dollars)

Origin

Year

Destination

World

Developing economies

Transition economies

Developed
economies

Total

Africa

America

Asia and Oceania

World

2007

14 008

4 577

376

704

3 497

432

8 889

2012

18 463

7 640

613

1 121

5 906

583

10 054

2017

17 689

7 323

536

987

5 800

430

9 725

Developing economies

2007

5 285

2 608

180

292

2 136

93

2 564

2012

8 207

4 672

342

485

3 844

145

3 345

2017

7 865

4 498

312

400

3 786

137

3 199

Developing economies: Africa

2007

429

143

43

16

84

2

278

2012

637

281

86

22

174

3

340

2017

412

215

69

9

138

3

186

Developing economies: America

2007

784

261

15

162

84

7

510

2012

1 118

453

22

219

212

10

645

2017

994

383

17

165

201

8

597

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

2007

4 072

2 204

123

114

1 967

84

1 776

2012

6 452

3 938

235

244

3 458

133

2 360

2017

6 460

3 900

227

226

3 447

127

2 416

Transition economies

2007

537

93

8

7

78

109

290

2012

824

187

17

10

160

145

429

2017

553

151

15

7

129

92

257

Developed economies

2007

8 186

1 876

188

405

1 284

230

6 035

2012

9 431

2 781

253

626

1 902

293

6 280

2017

9 270

2 674

209

580

1 886

201

6 269

Table 3

Top destinations of developing economies’ exports

Destination

(Ranked by value of exports)

Rank

2017

2017

2012

Value

Share in
total exports

Cumulative share

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

United States of America

1

1

1 296

16.5

16.5

China

2

2

988

12.6

29.0

China, Hong Kong SAR

3

4

477

6.1

35.1

Japan

4

3

426

5.4

40.5

India

5

5

306

3.9

44.4

Korea, Republic of

6

6

275

3.5

47.9

Singapore

7

7

200

2.5

50.5

Germany

8

9

197

2.5

53.0

Viet Nam

9

21

193

2.5

55.4

Netherlands

10

10

178

2.3

57.7

China, Taiwan Province of

11

8

155

2.0

59.7

United Kingdom

12

11

153

1.9

61.6

Malaysia

13

12

147

1.9

63.5

United Arab Emirates

14

13

146

1.9

65.3

Thailand

15

15

140

1.8

67.1

Rest of the world

-

-

2 587

32.9

100.0

World

-

-

7 865

100.0

Table 4

Top origins of developing economies’ imports

Origin

(Ranked by value of imports)

Rank

2017

2017

2012

Value

Share in
total imports

Cumulative share

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

China

1

1

1 305

17.5

17.5

United States of America

2

2

806

10.8

28.2

Japan

3

3

505

6.8

35.0

Korea, Republic of

4

4

411

5.5

40.5

China, Taiwan Province of

5

6

315

4.2

44.7

Germany

6

5

301

4.0

48.7

Malaysia

7

9

191

2.6

51.3

Singapore

8

8

189

2.5

53.8

Australia

9

10

186

2.5

56.3

India

10

12

179

2.4

58.7

Thailand

11

14

157

2.1

60.8

Brazil

12

13

153

2.0

62.9

Saudi Arabia

13

7

152

2.0

64.9

United Arab Emirates

14

11

151

2.0

66.9

France

15

15

136

1.8

68.7

Rest of the world

-

-

2 337

31.3

100.0

World

-

-

7 474

100.0