Global Forum on Trade Statistics

Political leaders from WTO and UN, as well as leaders in trade analysis, research and statistics gave their views on the most prominent and urgent trade issues and their corresponding data needs at the Global Forum on Trade Statistics, 2-4 February 2011, at the WTO in Geneva. This page gives a short overview of their opinions.

For more information on the Global Forum event of February 2011, see:

  • Presentation at UNSD
  • Audio at WTO

Measuring Global Trade — Do we have the right numbers?

Measuring Global Trade

It was stated that the concept of comparative advantage in final goods, as developed by Ricardo, is no longer fully relevant to explain trade between countries. Today, international specialization relates to trade in tasks rather than in finished goods, with the result that trade in intermediate goods, such as components, parts or goods for further processing, has grown fast. We need to have information on the inter-connectivity of national economies, not only through high frequency trade data but also through linking firm activity (production) with export activity (trade). Perhaps the solution is not the collection of more data, but to operate a paradigm shift in their packaging and interpretation.

Trade Satellite Account

Perhaps it is time to extend to the rest of the export sectors this concept [of a Trade Satellite Account] and bring together all relevant information on trade-related activities, from trade flows in goods and services, foreign direct investment and financial settlements, to employment in its quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Such a comprehensive overview would help policy-makers and other stakeholders to appreciate the multidimensionality of international trade and would have the very important advantage of linking the trade policy debate directly to what matters in trade politics – the production of domestic value added and jobs.

Trade patterns have moved from country specialization in types of goods (manufactures from the North; primary commodities from the South) to intra-firm/ network specialization in tasks, with the South greatly expanding production of manufactures. The changing patterns of trade and production have important implications for trade and industrial policies in the broader context of development strategies. Current statistical data are deficient for international trade in services from the point of view of both analysis of such trade and use by negotiators. Whereas much conceptual work was developed over the last decade, the data for trade in services show still too little detail.

Shift of paradigm to international perspective

A shift in paradigm is needed not only to observe the economic activity from the perspective of the national territory, but also from an international perspective. For such purpose there is a need for connecting international transactions with other economic statistics, like trade in relation to environment or to energy statistics. Furthermore, there is a need for interaction of statisticians with policy makers and researchers to keep trade data relevant.

Need for national authorities to cooperate

An integrated data warehouse linking trade with other economic statistics is the right way forward; sharing good practices in this regard is important. National authorities should legalize institutional arrangements on cooperation in trade statistics to move this field forward. International agencies should send a strong message to governments to make this happen.

We need a quality profile and satellite account for international trade statistics, which can help in reducing differences in mirror statistics and we need to improve the measurement of quantities, prices and volumes.

Global Value Chain Research

The global value chain (GVC) framework was developed over the past decade by a diverse interdisciplinary and international group of researchers who tracked the global spread of industries and their implications for both corporations and countries. Global value chain analysis provides both conceptual and methodological tools for looking at the global economy; either with a focus on lead firms and inter-firm networks, using varied typologies of industrial “governance” (top down) or with a focus on countries and regions, which are analyzed in terms of various trajectories of economic and social “upgrading” or “downgrading” (bottom up).

    Key research questions are:
  1. Can existing data on global trade be used to track the different types of GVC governance in a more detailed fashion over time?
  2. How can the GVC framework be applied to trade in services as well as goods?
  3. How can we link multiple governance structures and economic upgrading in GVCs?
  4. What are the policy issues and data challenges for each type of GVC governance (markets, networks, and hierarchies)?