Has Globalization Peaked?

Here is a measure of globalization according to the latest World Bank data.  It is the ratio of exports of goods and services as a percent of world GDP.

world gdp-export ratio

This shows that the world is less globalized in the latest data than it was back in 2005!  Is rising globalization over? Krugman thinks so:

To explain a rising long-term ratio of trade to GDP, we have to turn instead to structural changes in the world economy, of which the most obvious involve declining costs of trade. My view is that rapid trade growth since World War II was driven by two great waves of trade liberalization and one major technological innovation. The first wave of trade liberalization involved industrial countries, and was largely over by 1980:

The second wave involved the great opening of developing countries:

This is still going on, but the major opening of Latin America, China, and India is already well behind us. …The point is that it’s entirely reasonable to believe that the big factors driving globalization were one-time changes that are receding in the rear-view mirror, so that we should expect the share of trade in GDP to plateau — and that this doesn’t represent any kind of problem. In fact, it’s conceivable that things like rising fuel costs and automation (which makes labor costs less central) will lead to some “reshoring” of manufacturing to advanced countries, and a corresponding decline in the trade share. Ever-growing trade relative to GDP isn’t a natural law, it’s just something that happened to result from the policies and technologies of the past few generations. We should be neither amazed nor disturbed if it stops happening.

The main technological improvements in shipping (mainly containerized shipping, the “box”) and telecommunications have long since run into diminishing marginal returns. International telecommunication is already so cheap that it can’t get much cheaper and containerization is a half-century old already and there aren’t additional gains.

Jessie Romero of the Richmond Fed says that as developing nations catch up technologically and as their wages rise, this could also depress trade:

there are signs of longer-term changes in the Chinese economy. “Two dimensions of the Chinese economy have changed,” says the University of Houston’s Kei-Mu Yi. “First, as they’ve become more technologically proficient, they can make a lot of the intermediate inputs themselves, and to the extent they do, their demand for imports would fall. Second, as their economy has gotten bigger, they are selling more domestically rather than exporting.” Just as China’s entry into the global market boosted trade for the world as a whole, a persistent decrease in China’s trade could depress global trade growth…

In addition, rising labor costs in developing countries could alter the calculation; hourly manufacturing wages in China, for example, have increased on average 12 percent per year since 2001. Natural disasters such as the Fukushima earthquake also could make managers nervous about having long supply chains. Anecdotally, a number of American companies have been “reshoring” manufacturing to the United States. The Reshoring Initiative, an advocacy group, estimates that about 248,000 jobs that left the United States have returned since 2010…

In addition, rising labor costs in developing countries could alter the calculation; hourly manufacturing wages in China, for example, have increased on average 12 percent per year since 2001. Natural disasters such as the Fukushima earthquake also could make managers nervous about having long supply chains. Anecdotally, a number of American companies have been “reshoring” manufacturing to the United States. The Reshoring Initiative, an advocacy group, estimates that about 248,000 jobs that left the United States have returned since 2010.In addition, rising labor costs in developing countries could alter the calculation; hourly manufacturing wages in China, for example, have increased on average 12 percent per year since 2001. Natural disasters such as the Fukushima earthquake also could make managers nervous about having long supply chains. Anecdotally, a number of American companies have been “reshoring” manufacturing to the United States. The Reshoring Initiative, an advocacy group, estimates that about 248,000 jobs that left the United States have returned since 2010…

Constantinescu and her co-authors pinpointed 2000 as the beginning of the decline in the trade elasticity, other research has found that the decline did not occur until the Great Trade Collapse [of 2008].

It is true that trade has collapsed more in places like China and India than in the US.  Here is the same data as in the first graph above, but with India, China, and the US added which shows their big collapse.

At about the same time as international trade has started falling, immigration also fallen. Immigration to the US peaked over a decade ago in 2007. Here is Pew’s data for the total number of unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Rather than there being a “crisis” on our southern border, there have been more unauthorized immigrants leaving the US than entering for over a decade now.  It is an ironic time to want to build a big new border wall.

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Posted in Globalization & International

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