The world has reached a tipping point in the balance of trade power, with imports in emerging markets set to grow at a faster pace than their exports, HSBC's latest Global Connections report shows.
Rising living standards have led to a rapid increase in consumption in emerging markets, as people and companies adapt to their new-found wealth. This domestic demand has remained resilient in the face of the global economic slowdown, at a time when most developed nations have been reining in their spending.
The rebalancing of global trade can be seen clearly in the likes of China, India and Brazil, all of which are expected to see growth in imports exceed the growth in exports over the next five year period and continuing through to 2026 according to the report.
By contrast, the US, UK, France and Spain are expected to move in the opposite direction with growth of exports outpacing that of imports, as the weak economic backdrop takes its toll.
The rebalancing is evident in the fact that Germany and China are forecast to leapfrog the US to become the world's largest importers by 2026. India is also expected to become an increasingly important import destination, jumping from 15th to 10th place in the world over the same time period. This reflects India's position as one of the top four fastest growing importers alongside Brazil and Indonesia.
The report also highlights the continued development of emerging to emerging market trade corridors, which bypass developed nations. These are creating powerful networks, helping those countries better withstand the slowdown in trade with the developed world.
In Asia-Pacific, 10 of the top 15 trading partners come from within the same region. This trend is set to continue: the fastest growth in China's trade is concentrated with Asian partners, and India is increasingly looking to either Asia or the Middle East.
Latin American countries are also seeing strong trading growth with other emerging market nations, particularly Asia. Of Latin America's top 15 trade partners, nine are already outside the region. Its top five fastest growing import partners running through to 2016 are forecast to be India, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. In Brazil, six of its top 10 fastest growing export destinations are either Asian or Middle Eastern countries.
The Global Connections report from HSBC Commercial Banking is based on a forecast of global trade over the period to 20261 covering some 25 key trading countries.
Despite the current turmoil in the global economy the report is relatively optimistic about the prospect for ongoing trade growth, forecasting a 98 per cent rise in world trade over the next 15 years. That equates to an annual growth rate of around 4.7 per cent. The forecast growth is initially slower over the first five years of the forecast, at 3.7 per cent, reflecting the weakness of the developed world economies, but it is expected to accelerate thereafter as growth recovers.
This forecast is consistent with HSBC's study of current business sentiment, The Trade Confidence Index. According to this, 71 per cent of respondents believe the global economy will remain stable or grow over the next six months. Again the emerging markets influence is clear, with only one country from the top ten most confident countries coming from the developed world.
The Trade Connections report shows that the sectors experiencing the fastest growth are those closely correlated with economic development. Automotives, Non-Crude Oil, Medicines and Printing are the sectors forecast to dominate world trade growth over the next 15 years and emerging market countries are leading the growth in those areas.
Brazil and China are expected to see their imports of cars rise by 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively on an annualised basis over the next five years. Exports of cars from India are expected to rise by 13 per cent a year, through to 2016.
Trade in medicines is expected to grow strongly, with growth in excess of 5 per cent a year. The demand stems from emerging market nations as their consumers spend more on health care, with the supply of those products coming from the US and Europe.
Trade in printing machinery, which is used in sectors such as transport, textiles and automotives, is led by Asia where exports are expected to grow by more than 11 per cent annualised over the next five years.
1The forecast predictions were provided by Delta Economics, and should not be construed as HSBC advice or guidance. The findings are based on Delta economics interpretation of the data which has been sourced from publicly available sources.