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Visualizing the World’s Largest Importers in 2017

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Visualizing the World's Largest Importers in 2017

Visualizing the World’s Largest Importers in 2017

For most world leaders and corporate executives, the swing of the global pendulum to more protectionist policies has been an unpleasant surprise.

That’s because the consensus view from both economists and economic historians has been that measures like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which triggered a trade war during the Great Depression, greatly exacerbated circumstances that were already quite dire.

It’s common for tariff increases to be countered by retaliatory measures, and this can often translate to lower levels of international trade and decreased economic growth across the board. During the period of 1929 to 1934, according to the U.S. State Department, world trade decreased by 66% – largely a result of subsequent trade wars after the passing of Smoot-Hawley.

For the above reasons, international barriers to trade have been falling for decades – until now, of course.

Largest Importers

Which countries can throw their weight around the most with tariffs and retaliatory measures?

It’s those that import the most goods – and today’s infographic from HowMuch.net shows the world’s largest importers in 2017, according to recently released data from the World Trade Organization.

Here are the top 15 largest importers, globally:

RankCountryImports ($B)% of Global Imports
#1USA$2,409 billion13.4%
#2China$1,842 billion10.2%
#3Germany$1,167 billion6.5%
#4Japan$672 billion3.7%
#5United Kingdom$644 billion3.6%
#6France$625 billion3.5%
#7Hong Kong (China)$590 billion3.3%
#8Netherlands$574 billion3.2%
#9South Korea$478 billion2.7%
#10Italy$453 billion2.5%
#11India$447 billion2.5%
#12Canada$442 billion2.5%
#13Mexico$432 billion2.4%
#14Belgium$403 billion2.2%
#15Spain$351 billion1.9%

The United States takes home the number one spot with $2,409 billion of imports in 2017, about 13.4% of the global total. It’s worth mentioning that this is $860 billion higher than the country’s exports in 2017, and that the difference between the two numbers is the hotly-debated trade deficit.

China and Germany come in the #2 and #3 spots respectively, with $1,842 billion (10.2% of global total) of imports for China and $1,167 billion (6.5% of total) for Europe’s largest economy.

After the big three, no other country has a number exceeding 5% of global imports, but Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong (China), and the Netherlands all surpass the 3% mark.

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Animation: The Biggest Economies in 2030

By 2030, the complexion of the global economy could look very different. This animation shows how the world’s biggest economies will change over time.

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By 2030, the complexion of the global economy could look very different than it does today.

According to recent projections from Standard Chartered, a multinational bank headquartered in London, the next decade will see emerging markets like India and Turkey ascending the global economic ladder to become tomorrow’s powerhouses.

Visualizing the Boom in Emerging Markets

Today’s animation is based on a previous chart of the week we created that shows how economic growth is expected to unfold in the coming years.

View the projected change in rankings for the biggest economies from 2017 to 2030 below:

If the projections used in the above video prove to be accurate, the largest economy in 2030 will be China with $64.2 trillion in GDP after adjusting for purchasing power parity (PPP).

That’s nearly $20 trillion more than India, which will be the second largest by that time.

From Good to Great

While the sheer size of the Chinese economy is certainly an exclamation point, perhaps the more interesting story here is the ascent of developing markets in general.

By 2030, it’s projected that seven of the world’s 10 biggest economies will fall into that category:

RankCountryProj. GDP (2030, PPP)GDP (2017, PPP)% change
#1China$64.2 trillion$23.2 trillion+177%
#2India$46.3 trillion$9.5 trillion+387%
#3United States$31.0 trillion$19.4 trillion+60%
#4Indonesia$10.1 trillion$3.2 trillion+216%
#5Turkey$9.1 trillion$2.2 trillion+314%
#6Brazil$8.6 trillion$3.2 trillion+169%
#7Egypt$8.2 trillion$1.2 trillion+583%
#8Russia$7.9 trillion$4.0 trillion+98%
#9Japan$7.2 trillion$5.4 trillion+33%
#10Germany$6.9 trillion$4.2 trillion+64%

Over this timeframe, countries like Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil will all see their economies expand with triple-digit growth in PPP terms.

In particular, India’s economy will be buoyed by rapid population growth in its cities, which are some of the fastest-growing urban areas on the planet. At the same time, Egypt’s economy is expected to grow from $1.2 trillion to $8.2 trillion according to the bank – although we would add that this seems quite optimistic.

Finally, developed economies like the United States, Germany, and Japan will keep growing – but just not at the blistering pace of developing countries. If these projections turn out, the Japanese and German economies will round out the list with the #9 and #10 spots, respectively.

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Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – much of it through our river systems. See which rivers are polluting the most.

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Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers

Every year, approximately eight million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic every single minute.

Every plastic fork and bottle cap bobbing along the surface of the ocean has made its way to the ocean from dry land at some point. As it turns out, the hydrological cycle that keeps water circulating around the planet is also an effective means for trash to hitch a ride from our riverside cities to the open ocean.

As today’s unique, vintage-themed map – via John Nelson at ESRI – visualizes the shocking amount of plastic emitted by major rivers in the world.

Plastic Superhighways

It would be hard to overstate plastic’s influence on modern life.

Unfortunately, when plastic is finished doing it’s job, only 10% of it ends up being recycled. Instead, much of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean, congregating in places like the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Plastic discharge is especially pronounced in large population centers along large rivers – particularly in rapidly urbanizing regions in China, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans

Waste management practices are limited to non-existent in many of Asia’s fast-growing urban areas, so it comes as little surprise that 14 to the top 20 plastic emitting rivers are located on that continent.

The mighty Yangtze – China’s largest river – supports a population of over 400 million people and is the most prolific emitter of plastic waste on the planet. Over 1.5 million metric tons of plastic is unleashed into the Yellow Sea from the river each year.

Stemming the Tide

Plastic emissions data makes one point clear – China is the key to decreasing the volume of trash entering our ocean ecosystems.

The good news is that the Chinese government has recognized the problem, mandating garbage sorting in nearly 50 cities and setting a target for at 35% recycling rate by 2020. A positive first step in the battle to stem the tide of plastic entering ocean systems.

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