Development Roast

China's Importance in International Commerce

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China's strong growth has been extensively reported and debated due to its significant impacts on the prices and volumes of commercial flows during the last few decades. The economic behavior of China is fundamental given that it has one of the highest Gross Domestic Products (GDP) in the world (second only to the United States) and that it has a population that makes up approximately 15 percent of the world's total.

The 2012 ECLAC 1 document 'Panorama of the International Insertion of Latin America and the Caribbean' 2 contains information that allows an analysis of China's influence on international commerce to be performed. The data are presented in the following table.

Table 1: China's contribution to the production, consumption, and import of selected basic products in the years 1990, 2000, and 2010.

The large increase in the demand for minerals in China over time is evident. Iron in particular stands out – its consumption rate of 19.6 percent in 1990 rose to 92.5 percent in 2010. The impact of this demand on international prices was especially evident for copper, iron, and zinc; in the case of aluminum, China's internal production covers its use. This behavior, including the numbers for coal, clearly show the accelerated process of industrialization that China has experienced, spurred by greater and greater urbanization.

China's impact on world commerce is impressive. Image Source:

Energy derived from petroleum and natural gas also show a large increase over time, although its role in imports is only significant in the case of petroleum.

Changes in food consumption are highlighted by the cases of soya, fruit, cattle meat, and fish, although only soya and fish present an important contribution to world imports and exports.

In summary, the Table above presents an interesting view of the consumption patterns in China and its relation with imports and international commerce. One might ask if its dynamic industries will continue to increase or not; this will be sure to determine international prices, and the volumes of global imports and exports in the future.

Written by Beatriz Muriel 3 and translated by Tracey Li 4. Beatriz is a senior researcher with INESAD and Tracey is a senior intern.

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For Your Reference:

ECLAC (2012) “Panorama de la Inserción Internacional de América Latina y el Caribe 2011-2012,” Naciones Unidas. 5

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