Visualizing the World’s Largest Exporters in 2018
Trillions of dollars of goods get traded around the world every year.
In 2018, total global exports exceeded $19 trillion, including specialized goods falling into almost every possible category imaginable.
Whether you’re talking about German cars, Bangladeshi t-shirts, Saudi oil, or Swiss milk chocolate, just about anything is available on the world market for a price – and the world’s largest exporting countries aim to take advantage.
Ranked: The 15 Largest Exporters in 2018
Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it resizes countries based on their most recent export numbers, as per data from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Let’s take a look at how the field breaks down:
|Rank||Country||Exports (2018, $M)||Share of Global Total|
|#2||🇺🇸 United States||$1,664,085||8.6%|
|#6||🇰🇷 Korea, Rep.||$604,860||3.1%|
|#8||🇭🇰 Hong Kong, China||$569,241||2.9%|
|#10||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$485,711||2.5%|
Leading the list of the world’s largest exporters is China, with a whopping $2.5 trillion of goods sent abroad in 2018. If you add in Hong Kong’s numbers, China holds 15.7% of the global export total — roughly equal to Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, France, and Singapore combined.
Coming next on the list is the U.S., which exports about $1.7 trillion of goods each year. After that comes Germany, which is the only other country to export over $1 trillion of goods per year.
Comparing U.S. and Chinese Exports
What does China export, and how does that compare to a more developed economy such as the United States?
Using data from MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity, we can see the broad breakdown of exports in both countries:
|🇨🇳 China (Exports)||Share||🇺🇸 U.S. (Exports)||Share|
|Chemical Products||4.9%||Mineral Products||11.4%|
|Plastics and Rubbers||4.0%||Instruments||6.8%|
|Instruments||3.2%||Plastics and Rubbers||5.5%|
|Footwear and Headwear||2.6%||Metals||4.8%|
|Stone and Glass||1.7%||Foodstuffs||3.3%|
|Mineral Products||1.3%||Precious Metals||3.1%|
|Animal Hides||1.2%||Animal Products||2.2%|
On first glance, it’s clear that China’s exports are reliant on one heavy-hitting category (Machines) to drive a whopping 48.5% of total export value. Within that broad category of machines, there are many narrower categories, including:
- Broadcasting equipment (9.6% of total exports)
- Computers (6.1%)
- Office machine parts (3.8%)
- Integrated circuits (3.3%)
- Telephones (2.6%)
- Electrical transformers (1.3%)
- Semiconductor devices (1.2%)
- Video displays (1.1%)
For the United States, machines are still important at 22.1% of exports, but three other broad categories also surpass the 10% mark: transportation, chemical products, and mineral products. This means the U.S. is generally more diversified in its major exports.
For more, see the largest export of each state on this map.
Shapes of Recovery: When Will the Global Economy Bounce Back?
Economic recovery from COVID-19 could come in four shapes—L, U, W, and V. What do they mean, and what do global CEOs see as the most likely?
The Shape of Economic Recovery, According to CEOs
Is the glass half full, or half empty?
Whenever the economy is put through the ringer, levels of optimism and pessimism about its potential recovery can vary greatly. The current state mid-pandemic is no exception.
This graphic first details the various shapes that economic recovery can take, and what they mean. We then dive into which of the four scenarios are perceived the most likely to occur, based on predictions made by CEOs from around the world.
The ABCs of Economic Recovery
Economic recovery comes in four distinct shapes—L, U, W, and V. Here’s what each of these are characterized by, and how long they typically last.
This scenario exhibits a sharp decline in the economy, followed by a slow recovery period. It’s often punctuated by persistent unemployment, taking several years to recoup back to previous levels.
Also referred to as the “Nike Swoosh” recovery, in this scenario the economy stagnates for a few quarters and up to two years, before experiencing a relatively healthy rise back to its previous peak.
This scenario offers a tempting promise of recovery, dips back into a sharp decline, and then finally enters the full recovery period of up to two years. This is also known as a “double-dip recession“, similar to what was seen in the early 1980s.
In this best-case scenario, the sharp decline in the economy is quickly and immediately followed by a rapid recovery back to its previous peak in less than a year, bolstered especially by economic measures and strong consumer spending.
Another scenario not covered here is the Z-shape, defined by a boom after pent-up demand. However, it doesn’t quite make the cut for the present pandemic situation, as it’s considered even more optimistic than a V-shaped recovery.
Depending on who you ask, the sentiments about a post-pandemic recovery differ greatly. So which of these potential scenarios are we really dealing with?
How CEOs Think The Economy Could Recover
The think tank The Conference Board surveyed over 600 CEOs worldwide, to uncover how they feel about the likelihood of each recovery shape playing out in the near future.
The average CEO felt that economic recovery will follow a U-shaped trajectory (42%), eventually exhibiting a slow recovery coming out of Q3 of 2020—a moderately optimistic view.
However, geography seems to play a part in these CEO estimates of how rapidly things might revert back to “normal”. Over half of European CEOs (55%) project a U-shaped recovery, which is significantly higher than the global average. This could be because recent COVID-19 hotspots have mostly shifted to other areas outside of the continent, such as the U.S., India, and Brazil.
Here’s how responses vary by region:
|Gulf Region (N=16)||57%||26%||17%||-|
In the U.S. and Japan, 23% of CEOs expect a second contraction to occur, meaning that economic activity could undergo a W-shape recovery. Both countries have experienced quite the hit, but there are stark differences in their resultant unemployment rates—15% at its peak in the U.S., but a mere 2.6% in Japan.
In China, 21% of CEOs—or one in five—anticipate a quick, V-shaped recovery. This is the most optimistic outlook of any region, and with good reason. Although economic growth contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter, China has bounced back to a 3.2% growth rate in the second quarter.
Finally, Gulf Region CEOs feel the most pessimistic about potential economic recovery. In the face of an oil shock, 57% predict the economy will see an L-shaped recovery that could result in depression-style stagnation in years to come.
The Economic Recovery, According to Risk Analysts
At the end of the day, CEO opinions are all over the map on the potential shape of the economic recovery—and this variance likely stems from geography, cultural biases, and of course the status of their own individual countries and industries.
Despite this, portions of all cohorts saw some possibility of an extended and drawn-out recovery. Earlier in the year, risk analysts surveyed by the World Economic Forum had similar thoughts, projecting a prolonged recession as the top risk of the post-COVID fallout.
It remains to be seen whether this will ultimately indeed be the trajectory we’re in store for.
The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart
The world’s total GDP crested $88 trillion in 2019—but how are the current COVID-19 economic contractions affecting its future outlook?
The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart
The global economy can seem like an abstract concept, yet it influences our everyday lives in both obvious and subtle ways. Nowhere is this clearer than in the current economic state amid the throes of the pandemic.
Editor’s note: Annual data on economic output is a lagging indicator, and is released the following year by organizations such as the World Bank. The figures in this diagram provide a snapshot of the global economy in 2019, but do not necessarily represent the impact of recent developments such as COVID-19.
Top 10 Countries by GDP (2019)
In the one-year period since the last release of official data in 2018, the global economy grew approximately $2 trillion in size—or about 2.3%.
The United States continues to have the top GDP, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the world economy. China also continued to grow its share of global GDP, going from 15.9% to 16.3%.
|Rank||Country||GDP||% of Global GDP|
|Top 10 Countries||$58.7 trillion||66.9%|
In recent years, the Indian economy has continued to have an upward trajectory—now pulling ahead of both the UK and France—to become one of the world’s top five economies.
In aggregate, these top 10 countries combine for over two-thirds of total global GDP.
2020 Economic Contractions
So far this year, multiple countries have experienced temporary economic contractions, including many of the top 10 countries listed above.
The following interactive chart from Our World in Data helps to give us some perspective on this turbulence, comparing Q2 economic figures against those from the same quarter last year.
One of the hardest hit economies has been Peru. The Latin American country, which is about the 50th largest in terms of GDP globally, saw its economy contract by 30.2% in Q2 despite efforts to curb the virus early.
Spain and the UK are also feeling the impact, posting quarterly GDP numbers that are 22.1% and 21.7% smaller respectively.
Meanwhile, Taiwan and South Korea are two countries that may have done the best at weathering the COVID-19 storm. Both saw minuscule contractions in a quarter where the global economy seemed to grind to a halt.
Projections Going Forward
According to the World Bank, the global economy could ultimately shrink 5.2% in 2020—the deepest cut since WWII.
See below for World Bank projections on GDP in 2020 for when the dust settles, as well as the subsequent potential for recovery in 2021.
|Country/ Region / Economy Type||2020 Growth Projection||2021E Rebound Forecast|
|East Asia and Pacific||-0.5%||6.6%|
|Europe and Central Asia||-4.7%||3.6%|
|Latin America and the Caribbean||-7.2%||2.8%|
|Middle East and North Africa||-4.2%||2.3%|
Source: World Bank Global Economic Prospects, released June 2020
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