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WTO Report Reflects Tenuous Trade Path

Market share dependent on movement toward liberalization.

GENEVA — Emerging countries, led by China, are forecast to overtake the U.S. and other developed nations as the world’s biggest exporters of manufactured goods, if the global economy works toward a path of further trade liberalization, according to the World Trade Organization’s “2013 World Trade Report.”

Under this outlook, international trade in manufactured products, which includes textiles and apparel, are expected “to account for over two-thirds of world exports and to increase by a factor of almost 4.5 in volume by 2035,” the WTO forecasts. In this outlook, China would capture 29 percent of global exports in the broad sector, up from 19 percent in 2012, while the U.S. would see its share erode to 8 percent from 16 percent last year, and the European Union would account for 11 percent, down from 20 percent in 2012.


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Despite the rapid growth of the world service economy, the report shows, services such as banking, insurance, business services, transportation and travel by 2035 will account for only 19 percent of global exports compared with 17 percent in 2012, while manufacturing, perceived as a declining sector by many, will retain dominance in global trade and account for 68 percent of world exports, down from 71 percent last year.

However, in a subdued economic outlook marked by faltering global trade cooperation, the WTO estimates that developed economies would hold their ground and remain dominant in global goods exports, with the U.S. accounting for a 19 percent share, the EU 20 percent and China 15 percent. Manufactured goods would make up 65 percent of global trade under this forecast.

Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, said contrary to critics of a liberal world trade order, he did not see a reverse of globalization.

Patrick Low, chief WTO economist, said emerging and developing countries in 2011 accounted for 47 percent of world exports, up from 34 percent share in 1980, and noted, “Global supply chains have changed the patterns of international trade.”