Simulating world trade in the decades ahead: driving forces and policy implications

The geography and composition of international trade are changing fast. We link a macroeconomic growth model and sectoral CGE framework in order to project the world economy forward to the year 2035 and assess to what extent current trends in trade are expected to continue.

Constructing fully traceable scenarios based on assumptions grounded in the literature, we are also able to isolate the relative impact of key economic drivers. We find that the stakes for developing countries are particularly high: The emergence of new players in the world economy, intensification of South-South trade and diversification into skill-intensive activities may continue only in a dynamic economic and open trade environment. Current trends towards increased regionalization may be reversed, with multilateral trade relationships gaining in importance. Hypothetical mega-regionals could slow down, but not frustrate the prevalence of multilateralism. Continuing technological progress is likely to have the biggest impact on future economic developments around the globe. Population dynamics are influential as well: For some countries, up-skilling will be crucial, for others labour shortages may be addressed through migration. Several developing countries would benefit from increased capital mobility; others will only diversify into dynamic sectors, when trade costs are further reduced.


No: ERSD-2014-05

Authors: Lionel Fontagné, Jean Fouré and Alexander Keck

Manuscript date: April 2014

Key Words:

International trade, macroeconomic projections, CGE simulations

JEL classification numbers:

E27, F02, F17, F47

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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.

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