Opening a Pandora’s Box: Modeling World Trade Patterns at the 2035 Horizon

Economic projections for the world economy, particularly in relation to the construction of Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) baselines, are generally rather conservative and take scant account of the wide range of possible evolutions authorized by the underlying economic mechanisms considered.

Against this background, we adopt an ‘open mind’ to the projection of world trade trajectories. Taking a 2035 horizon, we examine how world trade patterns will be shaped by the changing comparative advantages, demand, and capabilities of different regions. We combine a convergence model fitting three production factors (capital, labor and energy) and two factor-specific productivities, alongside a dynamic CGE model of the world economy calibrated to reproduce observed elasticity of trade to income. Each scenario involves three steps. First, we project growth at country level based on factor accumulation, educational attainment and efficiency gains, and discuss uncertainties related to our main drivers. Second, we impose this framework (demographics, gross domestic product, saving rates, factors and current account trajectories) on the CGE baseline. Third, we implement trade policy scenarios (tariffs as well as non-tariff measures in goods and services), in order to get factor allocation across sectors from the model as well as demand and trade patterns. We show that the impact of changing baselines is greater than the impact of a policy shock on the order of magnitude of changes in world trade patterns, which points to the need for care when designing CGE baselines.


No: ERSD-2013-09


Lionel Fontagné & Jean Fouré
PSE (Paris 1) and CEPII. Email: [email protected]
CEPII. Email: [email protected]

Manuscript date: August 2013

Key Words:

Growth, Macroeconomic Projections, Dynamic Baselines

JEL classification numbers:

E23, E27, F02, F17, F47

back to top


This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. This paper represents the opinions of the author, and is the product of professional research. It is not meant to represent the position or opinions of the WTO or its Members, nor the official position of any staff members. Any errors are the fault of the author. Copies of working papers can be requested from the divisional secretariat by writing to: Economic Research and Statistics Division, World Trade Organization, Rue de Lausanne 154, CH 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.

Download paper in pdf format (48 pages, 1260KB; opens in a new window)