In a global market with (mostly) free trade, it’s common to see economies that are very specialized, each producing specific goods based on the competitive advantages, incentives, and resources they have available.
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Whether those inputs are inexpensive labor, ample amounts of natural resources, or a surplus in engineering talent, countries can use these advantages to manufacture and sell goods on the international market at a higher level of quality or a better price than competitors.
Simplifying World Trade
Today’s infographic comes to us from VoucherCloud, and it helps us get a sense of this specialization by looking at the top export of every country in the world. It’s a simple but telling way to see what countries are “good” at producing.
To start, here is a breakdown of countries, based on top export category:
|Top Export (Category)||# of countries||% of countries|
|Metal, Mineral and Organic||50||26.7%|
|Food and Produce||35||18.7%|
Note: Dataset is from the Observatory of Economic Complexity (2015)
At a high level, it’s clear that the vast majority of exports are derived from natural resources.
Fuels, metals, minerals, and organics make up over half of all top exports. Meanwhile, food and produce, which includes commodities like sugar, coffee, fish, and soybeans, also could be classified this way as well – and they make up a further 18.7% of top exports.
A Dive Into Regions
Viewing specific regions based on this concept can also provide some insight, as well.
It gives a sense of how developed the economies are in a certain area – and it also shows what resources are plentiful and in demand from those regions.
In case you weren’t aware, oil is a pretty big deal in the Middle East. There are a few exceptions: Israel’s top export is diamonds, Jordan’s is fertilizers, and Lebanon specializes in jewelry. The most recent data for war-torn Syria shows spice seeds at the top export.
Meanwhile, Europe is home to many developed economies that are focused on value-added goods, with many being in the transportation sector. Cars are a top export for eight countries here, and vehicle parts are a top export for other places, like Poland or Romania, as well.
Interestingly, France stands out here with its top exports being aerospace-related.
Looking at Asia also provides some interesting contrasts.
South Korea specializes in integrated circuits, while their northern neighbors sell coal briquettes (mostly to China) as a top export. It may also be surprising to see economies like Thailand and Vietnam having top exports such as computers and broadcasting equipment.
At the same time, who knew that Nepal had such a bustling flavored water industry?
Article by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist