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Is South–South Trade A Testing Ground For Structural Transformation?

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the composition of South–South as opposed to South– North trade in recent years, applying emerging methodologies and highly disaggregated trade data to consider whether the South as a market provides developing countries with greater opportunities to transform their productive structures and move to more sophisticated export sectors than the Northern market does. The results show that for a group of developing countries, primarily in Africa, Latin America and Central Asia, exports within the South are more sophisticated and better connected in the product space than exports to the North, whereas the opposite is true for the faster-growing economies of Asia and Eastern Europe (excluding the Commonwealth of Independent States). It is shown that the primary source of cross-country variation in export sophistication and connectedness is between Northbound rather than Southbound export baskets. And yet it is clear that for a large group of developing countries, current export flows to the North are not particularly growth-enhancing, nor do they offer learning opportunities to fuel structural transformation, and for these countries South–South trade flows may indeed be a testing ground for structural transformation. This paper focuses on clearly establishing the facts about export composition by market, and identifying promising avenues for further investigation.

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Paper provided by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in its series UNCTAD Blue Series Papers with number 40.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unc:blupap:40
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  1. Amsden, Alice H., 1986. "The direction of trade -- past and present -- and the learning effects of exports to different directions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 249-274, October.
  2. Wacziarg, Romain & Imbs, Jean, 2000. "Stages of Diversification," Research Papers 1653, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  3. Michael McPherson & Michael Redfearn & Margie Tieslau, 2001. "International trade and developing countries: an empirical investigation of the Linder hypothesis," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(5), pages 649-657.
  4. Amsden, Alice H, 1976. "Trade in Manufactures between Developing Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(344), pages 778-90, December.
  5. Amurgo-Pacheco, Alberto & Pierola, Martha Denisse, 2008. "Patterns of export diversification in developing countries : intensive and extensive margins," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4473, The World Bank.
  6. Juan Carlos Hallak, 2010. "A Product-Quality View of the Linder Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 453-466, August.
  7. Nancy L. Stokey, 1989. "The Volume and Composition of Trade Between Rich and Poor Countries," Discussion Papers 849, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090,
  9. M. A. Mcpherson & M. R. Redfearn & M. A. Tieslau, 2000. "A Re-Examination of the Linder Hypothesis: A Random-Effects Tobit Approach," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 123-136.
  10. Balassa, Bela, 1986. "Comparative Advantage in Manufactured Goods: A Reappraisal," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(2), pages 315-19, May.
  11. Hausmann, Ricardo & Klinger, Bailey, 2006. "Structural Transformation and Patterns of Comparative Advantage in the Product Space," Working Paper Series rwp06-041, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
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