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The Rise of Middle Kingdoms: Emerging Economies in Global Trade

  • Gordon H. Hanson

In this paper, I examine changes in international trade associated with the integration of low- and middle-income countries into the global economy. Led by China and India, the share of developing economies in global exports more than doubled between 1994 and 2008. One feature of new trade patterns is greater South-South trade. China and India have booming demand for imported raw materials, which they use to build cities and factories. Industrialization throughout the South has deepened global production networks, contributing to greater trade in intermediate inputs. A second feature of new trade patterns is the return of comparative advantage as a driver of global commerce. Growth in low- and middle-income nations makes specialization according to comparative advantage more important for the global composition of trade, as North-South and South-South commerce overtakes North-North flows. China's export specialization evolves rapidly over time, revealing a capacity to speed up product ladders. Most developing countries hyper-specialize in handful of export products. The emergence of low- and middle-income countries in trade reveals significant gaps in knowledge about the deep empirical determinants of export specialization, the dynamics of specialization patterns, and why South-South and North-North trade differ.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17961.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Publication status: published as Gordon H. Hanson, 2012. "The Rise of Middle Kingdoms: Emerging Economies in Global Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 41-64, Spring.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17961
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