Nothing has transformed our economy quite like containerized shipping.
From Rotterdam to Singapore, we see tangible evidence of the world’s bustling maritime shipping network as cranes load and unload uniform containers in a flurry of activity. The efficiency of this system has massively impacted the global economy, but this uniformity has also had the unintended consequence of anonymizing shipping. From the outside looking in, there’s no indication of who’s actually doing the shipping.
Today’s graphic, using data from JOC, highlights the actual companies behind the United States’ import–export numbers.
Outgoing: Recyclables and Raw Materials
While companies like Procter & Gamble and Caterpillar export a high volume of consumer goods and equipment, the export market is dominated by bulk materials, natural resources, and chemicals.
Here are the top 20 companies by export volume (20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs):
|1||America Chung Nam||284,500||📄 Paper
|2||International Paper||248,400||📄 Paper
|3||Ralison International||130,100||📄 Paper
|4||Koch Industries||120,800||💼 Conglomerate|
|5||International Forest Products||109,400||🌲 Paper/Forest Products
|6||DeLong||106,600||🐮 Animal Feed
|7||WM Recycle America||75,300||💼 Diversified
|9||Louis Dreyfus Commodities||68,200||⚪️ Cotton
|11||JBS USA||65,400||🍖 Meats
|12||ExxonMobil Chemical||63,400||🛢 Chemicals|
|13||Newport CH International||62,100||♻️ Recyclables|
|14||BMW of North America||61,600||🚘 Automotive Goods|
|16||JC Horizon||55,600||♻️ Recyclables|
|17||Eastman Chemical||53,800||🛢 Chemicals/Plastics|
|18||Potential Industries||51,600||📄 Paper
|19||Domtar||48,100||🌲 Paper/Forest Products|
|20||Sims Metal Management||47,700||⚙️ Metals
Note: TEU = Twenty-foot equivalent unit, a measure of volume in units of twenty-foot long shipping containers.
Though exporters of recyclable materials feature prominently on this list, there may be a shake-up coming in the near future.
China’s Recycling Diet
In Western countries, people often assume that their top export by volume is a high-value manufactured good or, at very least, a natural resource like timber or oil. The truth is, a sizable portion of exports from Western countries are waste materials.
This isn’t a new trend. In 2009, nine of the top 20 exporters in the U.S. were sending recyclable materials overseas – particularly to China.
This convenient trade relationship, where ships bring consumer goods to America and return filled with recyclable materials, is being disrupted in a big way. In 2018, China launched Operation National Sword, which could potentially tie a knot in the steady pipeline of waste materials being imported into the country.
For now, countries like Vietnam and Thailand have picked up some of the slack, but before long, Western countries will need to take a serious look at beefing up domestic recycling programs.
Incoming: The Stuff We Buy
On the other end of the equation are the consumer goods that get purchased every day.
In modern society, there’s a very good chance the items around you right now were not built in the country you live in. While many companies import goods from overseas, a few major players move a staggering volume of goods through America’s ports.
Here are the top 20 companies by import volume (TEUs):
|3||Home Depot||388,000||🛒 Retail|
|5||Dole Food||220,200||🍍 Produce|
|6||Samsung America||184,800||💼 Conglomerate|
|7||Family Dollar / Dollar Tree||168,400||🛒 Retail|
|8||LG Group||161,600||💼 Conglomerate|
|9||Philips Electronics N.A.||142,900||📺 Electronics|
|10||IKEA International||120,500||🛒 Retail|
|11||Chiquita Brands Int'l||117,500||🍌 Produce|
|12||Nike||116,300||👞 Footwear / Apparel|
|13||Newell Brands||115,400||🍶 Outdoor / Home Goods|
|14||Costco Wholesale||111,700||🛒 Retail|
|15||Sears Holdings||103,200||🛒 Retail|
|16||J.C. Penney||101,100||🛒 Retail|
|17||General Electric||92,300||💼 Conglomerate|
|18||Ashley Furniture Industries||85,700||🛋 Furniture|
|20||Heineken USA||73,100||🍺 Beverages|
In contrast to the top exporters list, the top importing companies are generally more recognizable names, such as Target, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, and Ikea.
It will come as no surprise that Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer by some margin, is also America’s top importer. In a single year, Walmart’s incoming goods would equate to nearly 50 of the industry’s largest fully-loaded cargo ships.
The $86 Trillion World Economy in One Chart
According to the latest World Bank data, the global economy is now $85.8 trillion in nominal terms. Here’s how it breaks down.
The $86 Trillion World Economy in One Chart
The world economy is in a never-ending state of flux.
The fact is that billions of variables — both big and small — factor into any calculation of overall economic productivity, and these inputs are changing all of the time.
Buying this week’s groceries or filling up your car with gas may seem like a rounding error when we are talking about trillions of dollars, but every microeconomic decision or set of preferences can add up in aggregate.
And as consumer preferences, technology, trade relationships, interest rates, and currency valuations change — so does the final composition of the world’s $86 trillion economy.
Country GDPs, by Size
Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it charts the most recent composition of the global economic landscape.
It should be noted that the diagram uses nominal GDP to measure economic output, which is different than using GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP). The data in the diagram and table below come from the World Bank’s latest update, published in July 2019.
The Top 15 Economies, by GDP
|Rank||Country||GDP (Nominal, USD)||Share of World Total (%)|
|#1||🇺🇸 United States||$20.49 trillion||23.89%|
|#2||🇨🇳 China||$13.61 trillion||15.86%|
|#3||🇯🇵 Japan||$4.97 trillion||5.79%|
|#4||🇩🇪 Germany||$4.00 trillion||4.66%|
|#5||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$2.83 trillion||3.29%|
|#6||🇫🇷 France||$2.78 trillion||3.24%|
|#7||🇮🇳 India||$2.73 trillion||3.18%|
|#8||🇮🇹 Italy||$2.07 trillion||2.42%|
|#9||🇧🇷 Brazil||$1.87 trillion||2.18%|
|#10||🇨🇦 Canada||$1.71 trillion||1.99%|
|#11||🇷🇺 Russian Federation||$1.66 trillion||1.93%|
|#12||🇰🇷 Korea, Rep.||$1.62 trillion||1.89%|
|#13||🇦🇺 Australia||$1.43 trillion||1.67%|
|#14||🇪🇸 Spain||$1.43 trillion||1.66%|
|#15||🇲🇽 Mexico||$1.22 trillion||1.43%|
The above 15 economies represent a whopping 75% of total global GDP, which added up to $85.8 trillion in 2018 according to the World Bank.
Most interestingly, the gap between China and the United States is narrowing — and in nominal terms, China’s economy is now 66.4% the size.
A Higher Level Look
The World Bank also provides a regional breakdown of global GDP, which we helps to give additional perspective:
|Rank||Geographic Region||GDP (Nominal, USD)||Global Share|
|World Total||$85.8 trillion||100.0%|
|#1||East Asia & Pacific||$25.9 trillion||30.2%|
|#2||Europe & Central Asia||$23.0 trillion||26.8%|
|#3||North America||$22.2 trillion||25.9%|
|#4||Latin America & Caribbean||$5.8 trillion||6.8%|
|#5||Middle East & North Africa||$3.6 trillion||4.2%|
|#6||South Asia||$3.5 trillion||4.1%|
|#7||Sub-Saharan Africa||$1.7 trillion||2.0%|
The organization breaks it down by income levels, as well:
|Income Level||GDP (Nominal, USD)||Global Share|
|World total||$85.8 trillion||100.00%|
|High income countries||$54.1 trillion||63.1%|
|Upper middle income countries||$24.4 trillion||28.4%|
|Lower middle income countries||$6.7 trillion||7.8%|
|Low income countries||$0.6 trillion||0.7%|
The low income countries — which have a combined population of about 705 million people — add up to only 0.6% of global GDP.
Looking Towards the Future
For more on the world economy and predictions on country GDPs on a forward-looking basis, we suggest looking at our animation on the Biggest Economies in 2030.
It is worth mentioning, however, that the animation uses GDP (PPP) calculations instead of the nominal ones above.
Ranked: The Autonomous Vehicle Readiness of 20 Countries
This interactive visual shows the countries best prepared for the shift to autonomous vehicles, as well as the associated societal and economic impacts.
For the past decade, manufacturers and governments all over the world have been preparing for the adoption of self-driving cars—with the promise of transformative economic development.
As autonomous vehicles become more of a looming certainty, what will be the wider impacts of this monumental transition?
Which Countries are Ready?
Today’s interactive visual from Aquinov Mathappan ranks countries on their preparedness to adopt self-driving cars, while also exploring the range of challenges they will face in achieving complete automation.
The Five Levels of Automation
The graphic above uses the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, which details the five levels of automation. Level 0 vehicles place the responsibility for all menial tasks with the driver, including steering, braking, and acceleration. In contrast, level 5 vehicles demand nothing of the driver and can operate entirely without their presence.
Today, most cars sit between levels 1 and 3, typically with few or limited automated functions. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as certain Tesla models and Google’s Waymo. Both feature a full range of self-driving capabilities—enabling the car to steer, accelerate and brake on behalf of the driver.
The Journey to Personal Driving Freedom
There are three main challenges that come with achieving a fully-automated level 5 status:
- Data Storage
Effectively storing data and translating it into actionable insights is difficult when 4TB of raw data is generated every day—the equivalent of the data generated by 3,000 internet users in 24 hours.
- Data Transportation
Autonomous vehicles need to communicate with each other and transport data with the use of consistently high-speed internet, highlighting the need for large-scale adoption of 5G.
- Verifying Deep Neural Networks
The safety of these vehicles will be dictated by their ability to distinguish between a vehicle and a person, but they currently rely on algorithms which are not yet fully understood.
Which Countries are Leading the Charge?
The 20 countries were selected for the report based on economic size, and their automation progress was ranked using four key metrics: technology and innovation, infrastructure, policy and legislation, and consumer acceptance.
The United States leads the way on technology and innovation, with 163 company headquarters, and more than 50% of cities currently preparing their streets for self-driving vehicles. The Netherlands and Singapore rank in the top three for infrastructure, legislation, and consumer acceptance. Singapore is currently testing a fleet of autonomous buses created by Volvo, which will join the existing public transit fleet in 2022.
India, Mexico, and Russia lag behind on all fronts—despite enthusiasm for self-driving cars, these countries require legislative changes and improvements in the existing quality of roads. Mexico also lacks industrial activity and clear regulations around autonomous vehicles, but close proximity to the U.S. has already garnered interest from companies like Intel for manufacturing autonomous vehicles south of the border.
How Autonomous Vehicles Impact the Economy
Once successfully adopted, autonomous vehicles will save the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion per year, which will come from a variety of sources including:
- $563 billion: Reduction in accidents
- $422 billion: Productivity gains
- $158 billion: Decline in fuel costs
- $138 billion: Fuel savings from congestion avoidance
- $11 billion: Improved traffic flow and reduction of energy use
Transportation will be safer, potentially reducing the number of accidents over time. Insurance companies are already rolling out usage-based insurance policies (UBIs), which charge customers based on how many miles they drive and how safe their driving habits are.
Long distance traveling in autonomous vehicles provides a painless alternative to train and air travel. The vehicles are designed for comfort, making it possible to sleep overnight easily—which could also impact the hotel industry significantly.
- Real Estate
An increase in effortless travel could lead to increased urban sprawl, as people prioritize the convenience of proximity to city centers less and less.
With the adoption of autonomous vehicles projected to reduce private car ownership in the U.S. to 43% by 2030, it’s disrupting many other industries in the process.
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