The Commodity Export, Growth, and Distribution Connection in Southeast Asia 1500-1940
This paper explores Southeast Asia's trade performance over the four and a half centuries from 1500 to 1940. It identifies the determinants of the commodity export performance – falling trade costs, income growth of its trading partners, and improved supply conditions at home. It also explores its impact on Southeast Asia's growth performance: trade specialization generated more macro volatility, de-industrialization, rising colonial power, and greater inequality up to World War 1, but these forces turned around in the region thereafter, including some modest industrial Catch-up. Finally, the paper elaborates on the distributional impact and colonial profitability of commodity export booms and busts throughout the last century.
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