The Top Importers and Exporters of the World’s 18 Most Traded Goods
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Every day, massive quantities of goods get traded on the global market.
These goods can be entirely customized and unique, but more often they are things like commodities or bulk goods that get moved around on huge container ships from country to country. Included in this latter category would be common exports like crude oil, automobiles, iron ore, pharmaceuticals, and smartphones.
Which goods get traded the most, and what countries play the most important roles in these deals?
The Most Traded Goods
Today’s infographic comes to us from Teletrac Navman and it covers the world’s 18 most traded goods, as well as the top importer and exporter for each good.
Here are the good categories, along with the total dollar value and percentage of total exports that each category represents on the global market.
|Rank||Category of Good||Total Value (2016)||% of Total Global Exports|
|#2||Refined Petroleum||$825 billion||3.0%|
|#3||Integrated Circuits||$804 billion||2.9%|
|#4||Vehicle Parts||$685 billion||2.5%|
|#8||Crude Petroleum||$549 billion||2.0%|
|#10||Broadcasting Equipment||$395 billion||1.4%|
|#12||Petroleum Gas||$254 billion||0.9%|
|#13||Human or Animal Blood||$252 billion||0.9%|
|#15||Delivery Trucks||$216 billion||0.8%|
|#16||Medical Instruments||$216 billion||0.8%|
|#17||Insulated Wires||$200 billion||0.7%|
Finished automobiles are the top good traded worldwide with $1.35 trillion being traded each year between countries. Auto parts are not far behind in the #4 spot with $685 billion of trade.
Oil also stands out as a key commodity: refined petroleum ranks #2 with $825 billion of trade, while crude petroleum and petroleum gas are at #8 and #12, for $549 billion and $254 billion traded, respectively.
Finally, an odd standout is the category of human and animal blood – which apparently sees $252 billion in aggregate international trade each year.
In case you were wondering, here are the top exporters of human and animal blood:
Key Importers and Exporters
The United States is the biggest importer for 12 of the 18 trade categories, including the largest ones: automobiles and refined petroleum.
Interestingly, the U.S. is also the largest exporter of two of the goods that it is a top importer of: refined petroleum and medical equipment. This is because both are highly specialized categories – the U.S. may import one grade of refined oil at a low cost, while simultaneously exporting a higher or more specialized grade of oil at a premium.
Germany is a top exporter of autos, vehicle parts, and pharmaceuticals, while Switzerland is the number one importer and exporter of gold.
Lastly, China is the biggest exporter for five of the 18 trade categories: computers, broadcasting equipment, telephones, insulated wires, and jewelry, while being the largest importer of crude oil, integrated circuits, and aircraft.
Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. Dollar Since the 19th Century
This animated graphic shows the U.S. dollar, the world’s primary reserve currency, as a share of foreign reserves since 1900.
Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. Dollar Since the 19th Century
As the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. dollar made up 58.4% of foreign reserves held by central banks in 2022, falling near 25-year lows.
Today, emerging countries are slowly decoupling from the greenback, with foreign reserves shifting to currencies like the Chinese yuan.
At the same time, the steep appreciation of the U.S. dollar is leading countries to sell their U.S. foreign reserves to help prop up their currencies, in turn buying currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars to help generate higher yields.
The above animated graphic from James Eagle shows the rapid ascent of the U.S. dollar over the last century, and its gradual decline in recent years.
Dollar Dominance: A Brief History
In 1944, the U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency under the Bretton Woods Agreement. Over the first half of the century, the U.S. ran budget surpluses while increasing trade and economic ties with war-torn countries, expanding its influence as the world’s store of value.
Later through the 1960s, the U.S. dollar share of global foreign reserves rapidly increased as political allies stockpiled the dollar.
By 2000, dollar dominance hit a peak of 71% of global reserves. With the creation of the European Union a year earlier, countries such as China began increasing the share of euros in reserves. Between 2000 and 2005, the share of the dollar in China’s foreign exchange reserves fell by an estimated 15 percentage points.
The dollar began a long rally after the global financial crisis, which drove central banks to cut their dollar reserves to help bolster their currencies.
Fast-forward to today, and dollar reserves have fallen roughly 13 percentage points from their historical peak.
The State of the World’s Reserve Currency
In 2022, 16% of Russia’s export transactions were in yuan, up from almost nothing before the war. Brazil and Argentina have also begun adopting the Chinese currency for trade or reserve purposes. Still, the U.S. dollar makes up 80% of Brazil’s reserves.
Yet while the U.S. dollar has decreased in share of foreign reserves, it still has an immense influence in the world economy.
The majority of trade is invoiced in the U.S. dollar globally, a trend that has stayed fairly consistent over many decades. Between 1999-2019, 74% of trade in Asia was invoiced in dollars and in the Americas, it made up 96% of all invoicing.
Furthermore, almost 90% of foreign exchange transactions involve the U.S. dollar thanks to its liquidity.
However, countries are increasingly finding alternative options than the dollar. Today, Western businesses have begun settling trade with China in renminbi. Looking further ahead, digital currencies could provide options that don’t include the U.S. dollar.
Even more so, if the U.S. share of global GDP continues to shrink, the shift to a multipolar system could progress over this century.
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