Merchandise trade by product

Map 1. Main export products, 2020

Note: Top 10 exporting economies are shown in the default selection.

Regional specialization patterns

The supply of goods to the world market has a regional pattern. According to 2020 figures, economies in Northern and Central America, Europe and Southern, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia export mainly manufactured goods. The main fuel exporters are located along the northern coast of South America, in Middle and Northern Africa and Western and Central Asia. Some other countries, for example Madagascar, Niger, Somalia, Ukraine and Brazil, specialized in food in 2020.

In Africa, primary goods accounted for 75 per cent of merchandise exports in 2020; of which fuels made up 39 per cent. Developing Asia and Oceania relied much less on primary goods in their exports (21 per cent). Developing America recorded the largest proportion of food exports (25 per cent) among the three developing regions.

Figure 1. Export structure of developing economies by product group, 2020
(Percentage)

Note: Non-allocated products are not considered.

Decline in trade for several products

Figure 2. Annual growth rate of exports by product group, 2020
(Percentage)
The contraction of world merchandise trade in 2020 (see Total merchandise trade) during the COVID-19 pandemic was strongly driven by fuel price collapse. The export of fuels fell sharply, by 33 per cent. Exports of agricultural raw materials decreased by 6 per cent and those of manufactured goods by 4 per cent. Exports of ores, metals, precious stones and non-monetary gold grew by 6 per cent and trade in food increased by almost 2 per cent.

What do developing regions trade with others?

Developing regions show considerable differences in their respective trade with the rest of the world. In 2020, economies in Asia and Oceania recorded a merchandise trade surplus of 10 per cent driven by high exports of manufactured goods. In America, high imports of manufactured goods were partially offset by food exports. Overall, the region had a 7 per cent trade surplus. In contrast, the trade structure was entirely different in Africa, with imports of manufactured goods three times higher than exports. Although counterbalanced by surpluses in ores, metals, precious stones, monetary gold and in fuels, an overall deficit as large as 25 per cent remained. Developing America showed comparably high net-exports of food.
Figure 3. Developing economies’ extra-trade structure, 2020
(Percentage of exports)

Concepts and definitions

The breakdown of merchandise trade by product group is based on the entries in the customs declarations that are coded in accordance with a globally harmonized classification system, called the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS). The values of the individual customs declarations have been summed up to the level of product group, error-checked and submitted to the United Nations Statistics Division for integration in the UN Comtrade database -—
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The UN Comtrade database contains product breakdowns based on the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC). These have been obtained by conversion of the raw data coded in HS and constitute the main source of the figures presented in this section. For correspondence between SITC codes and the five broad product groups presented in this section, see on the Classifications page.

Summary tables

Table 1. Exports by product group, origin and destination, 2020
(Millions of United States dollars)
All food items
Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

    Agricultural raw materials
    Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

      Fuels
      Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

        Manufactured goods
        Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

          Ores, metals, precious stones and non-monetary gold
          Note: Percentage of exports to the whole world in parentheses.

            References

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