Share of World Goods Exports, Leading Exporters, 1950-2020

Share of World Goods Exports, Leading Exporters, 1950-2020

Source: WTO.

The relative decline of American exports has been an enduring trend, losing its status as the world’s largest exporter in 2003 to Germany and China in 2009. While the contribution of major traders to global exports can fluctuate in time, the share of the world-leading exporters (United States, Japan, Germany, and China) remains relatively stable, around 32% of global exports. Japan’s share substantially improved up to the mid-1980s as the country followed export-oriented strategies. However, this share declined afterward, the outcome of the offshoring of its manufacturing activities.

Japan experienced a different process, which is led by offshoring. Its post World War II recovery leaned on exports, and cars became an important component of its international trade. From the 1990s, many American, Japanese, and Korean corporations started to relocate to China manufacturing facilities. Coupled with the opening of China to international trade through economic reforms, its share of exports surged in the 2000s. Still, a share of Chinese exports is embedded within supply chains in part controlled by foreign interests.