Press Releases

    31 January 2005

    China Set to Stay Growth Course, According to UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2004

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 28 January (UNCTAD) -- China's record-breaking export growth is likely to have topped 35 per cent in 2003-2004, according to new estimates released today by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The figures build on the data contained in the UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2004, which show that China's trade surplus soared by a factor of eight since the early 1990s, leading the growing participation of developing countries in world trade. While China has been one of the main engines of growth for the global economy, the Asian economies more generally have resumed their rapid growth after the crisis of 1997-1998, with export growth rates of 20.4 per cent in the Philippines, 19.3 per cent in the Republic of Korea, 13.5 per cent in India, and 7.8 per cent in Indonesia in 2003. However, "hopes that the least developed countries and the highly indebted countries will be able to trade their way to development are uncertain", according to Carlos Fortin, Officer-in-Charge of UNCTAD: their share of international trade remains stagnant at 0.6 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively, unchanged over the past 10 years.

    The recent rise in commodity prices is reflected in the firming up of the all-commodity price index, which increased from 77.0 in 2002 (1990=100) to 97.8 in the second quarter of 2004, and these prices are also reflected in the terms of trade that the Handbook computes for many countries. Apart from crude oil, the price of which rose from 87.6 at the end of 2001 to 161.5 in the second quarter of 2004, other important price increases registered are those for wheat, soybean oil, copra, sisal, rubber, nickel and tin. "While many third world countries that are highly dependent on commodities for their incomes and growth will benefit from these movements", says Sam Laird, Head of UNCTAD’s Trade Analysis Branch, "there will be a negative impact on net food importers, mostly in Africa, from higher wheat prices." In addition, the Handbook shows the relative instability of commodity prices, which makes long-term planning very difficult.

    Trade reforms in developing countries over the past 10 to 15 years are reflected in the general decline in protection in these countries, often under World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes. Chinese import tariffs, for example, dropped from 34.8 per cent in 1992 to 12.4 per cent in 2001; Indian tariffs fell from 70.5 per cent in 1990 to 28.0 per cent in 2001 and have dipped another 10 percentage points since then, according to unofficial sources.  The majority of developing countries now have tariffs in the 10 to 20 per cent range, and a considerable number of them in the 5 to 10 per cent range. This does not take full account of the further tariff reductions under regional trade agreements, whose rapidly growing intra-trade is also mapped by the Handbook.

    The Handbook provides valuable insights into trends in a number of trade and related areas of the global economy, such as:

    -- The Maldives’ tourism revenues have quadrupled since 1990, making them a key source of revenue for the country, but these figures will be severely affected by the recent tsunami.

    -- Trade among developing countries amounts to 13 per cent of global merchandise flows, which is low considering there are 165 developing economies, but the figure reflects an upward trend: flows grew by two percentage points between 1998 and 2002.

    -- Between 2000 and 2003, the average annual deficit in United States merchandise trade exceeded $500 billion.

    -- China's imports of ores and metals -- primarily steel -- quadrupled from 1995 to 2003, a reflection of the country's powerhouse economic role and probably helping to push up the average prices of these commodities by 35 per cent in just one year (October 2003-October 2004).

    The UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics is a comprehensive compilation of data tables that provide analysts -- governments, academia, international organizations and other researchers -- with insight into the complex issues of international trade and development. This information can help countries assess their own place in the evolving global economy of the past 40 years, evaluate trends and devise possible courses of action. The Handbook, whose time series go back as far as 1950, is available on CD-ROM, in print and online.

    The figures reveal developments in many important areas of the global economy, such as:

    -- International merchandise trade: values, growth rates, trends and regional trade zones;

    -- Export and import structure, by product and by region of origin and destination;

    -- Trade concentration and structural change in trade indices and terms-of-trade indices;

    -- Commodity prices and relevant price indices;

    -- Trade in services: totals and exports and imports of services by main sector;

    -- International finance: current accounts, foreign direct investment, external indebtedness, workers' remittances, international reserves, etc.; and

    -- Selected development, social and telecommunications indicators.

    This year, for the first time, the Handbook also contains consolidated information on capital and financial accounts and international maritime transport.

    Three Formats

    Of the three formats, the CD-ROM version of the Handbook is the most comprehensive, containing the full-time series and permitting simultaneous viewing of different data dimensions (such as total values, rankings and percentages). Its user-friendly data browser enables one-click pivoting, charting, sorting, aggregating or exporting, all of which make for quicker reference and greater potential uses. The print version is a consolidated reference of selected statistics -- mainly from recent years -- and is particularly useful in analysing trade and development trends. The online version corresponds to the CD-ROM data tables and can be accessed interactively, at Users can browse through the default data sets, choose new items and construct completely new presentations.  The selected data can then be rearranged, charted and extracted as a worksheet file or saved as a custom query for future accessing.

    Contacts:  Press Office, tel: +41 22 917 5828, e-mail:, web:; or H. Laurencin, tel: +41 22 917 5734, e-mail:

    The UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2004 is available in print for $80.00 (Sales No. E/F.05.II.D.2, ISBN 92-1-012057-4); on CD-ROM, for $150.00 (Sales No. E/F.05.II.D.4, ISBN 92-1-012058-2), or at a special price of $195.00 for both the print and CD-ROM versions.  It may be ordered from Section des Ventes et Commercialisation, Bureau E-4, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, tel: +41 22 907 2614, fax: +41 22 917 0027, e-mail:; or United Nations Publications Sales and Marketing Section, Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-853, New York, NY 10017, USA, tel: 1 212 963 8302 or 1 800 253 9646, fax: 1 212 963 3489, e-mail:, Internet:

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