Quick Notes on the World Trade Statistical Review, 2022

If you are a student of economics, you should create a calendar for yourself about important data releases. This could be the release of GDP reports in your own country, it could be the release of the WEO reports from IMF… and if you are a student of international trade, your data release calendar aboslutely should include the World Trade Statistical Review from the WTO. Pro-tip re: the WTO – you’ll learn much more by spending a day drinking coffee and going though as many links as you can stand to from here. The coffee is important, trust me, and it really helps if you can do this with a friend going though the same exercise with you (but on a separte device, mind you).

But back to the World Trade Statistical Review: this year’s report is really important for obvious reasons. We get a look at how the world recovered from the pandemic, and we also get a sense of how 2022 has unfolded, given all of what this year has given us in terms of momentous events.

First, the obvious stuff. The year-on-year change in terms of world trade in both goods and services saw a remarkable recovery in 2021. We also saw a bit of tapiering off in 2022, relative to 2021. China, the US and Germany (in that order) were the three largest merchandise traders. If you are a student of the Indian economy, you absolutely should ask where India stands in the list. The answer is to be found in Table A6, pp 58 of the report. You can also download the associated Excel file from the World Trade Statistical Review website (the link is in the first paragraph above).

Note also that the appendix si worth going through in order to get a sense of how India fares in other dimensions of international trade. Open up the PDF, and do a CTRL-F for India, and see what you might wish to take note of. Me, for instance, I found it fascinating that in terms of percentages of world merchandise exports, we touched 2.2% in 1948, and have not crossed that level (or even matched it) ever since. That is from Table A4. I also found it interesting that India, more than any other nation, did remarkably well in terms of IT exports (pp. 31). The commodity specific export data related to India in the appendix is also faascinating, and if you really want to get into the weeds of the report as a student of the Indian economy, I think you will find it to be worth your while.

The global exports of digitally delivered services on pp 17 is a fascinating chart, and one that Timothy Taylor has spoken about on his blog.

Ask yourself if you know how to create the kind of chart that you see on pp 18.

Note the impact of the war in Ukraine on international trade in chart 3.3, pp 24. But also take a look at chart 3.8

Ask yourself why the price of natural gas is falling off with the advent of winter in 2022. Should it not be even higher, now that winter is setting in? Ask yourself what you have not understood about trading, futures and finance if the answer escapes you.

Ask what’s up with Japan when you look at chart 3.5.

Compare China and India in chart 3.10, pp 31

Go to pp 43 of the report. Are you familiar with what SITC means? What about HS codes? Update: hereticindian, in the comments, shares this very useful link: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/classifications/Econ

More fun awaits you on pp 45: what about BPM6? What about SNA?

How familiar are you with the list of sources given on pp 50? Do you regularly visit these website? If you are a student of economics, you should have all of these bookmarked, and you should have a degree of familiarity with at least some of these sources.

“What should I read to prepare for placements?” is the wrong question to ask.

“What, of all of what I’ve been reading over the past five years, is the most relevant to placements?” is the better question to ask. Get in the habit of reading far and wide, and get in the habit of familiarizing yourself with the relevant data sources in your field.

The correct time to start on this? Yesterday.