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The report challenges a “general perception that world commercial
services trade is growing faster than trade in goods. Indeed trade in
commercial services expanded faster than goods trade in the second half
of the 1980s, but thereafter the record is mixed,” it says.
Broadly, services and merchandise trade growth have evolved in a roughly
similar way since 1990. For 1990–2003, trade in commercial services and
goods both grew by about 6% per year on average, and therefore services’
share of international trade remained at about 20% over the period.
“Overall, there is no indication that services categories in general
have increased their share in international trade,” the report says.
However, the detailed picture is more varied, with some categories of
goods and services growing faster than the overall rate, and others
The faster growing sectors are industrial products (i.e. “manufactures”)
on the goods side (rising from 50.2% of world exports in 1985 to 58.2%
in 2002), and a category of services that includes computer and
information services, financial services, insurance, telecommunications,
and personal, cultural and recreational services (the report calls these
“other” services, i.e. not transport or travel) — up from 6.3% of world
exports in 1985 to 9.4% in 2002.
Sectors growing slower than the overall average include transport on the
services side (down from 5.5% of world exports in 1985 to 4.5% in 2002),
and agricultural goods (down from 11.3% to 7.2% in the period) and
mining products (down from 18.3% to 9.7%) among goods.
Mining products (including fuels) stand somewhat apart from other
categories of both goods and services, with their share of world trade
rising and falling the most because of swings in oil prices throughout
As for agricultural products, while their total share of world trade has
declined, the trend towards more trade in processed goods can be
observed across regions, countries and agricultural products throughout
the 1990-2002 period. The WTO Secretariat estimates that processed
products approached 48% of agricultural trade by 2001–2002. The question
of how far trade policy may be responsible for these observed trends is
a matter for further research, the report says.
The report, “Recent Trends in International Trade Policy Developments”
(attached), augments information on trade figures for 2003 and prospects
for 2004 released on 5 April 2004 (see press
Those figures show: a stronger than expected recovery in world
merchandise trade growth, at 4.5% in real terms in 2003; and an even
stronger expansion in 2004, at 7.5%, but depending on certain
The report will form part of the broader study, the WTO’s “World Trade
Report 2004”, due to be published in September.
Trends in International Trade Policy Developments (pdf format,
23 pages, 907KB)