NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

World Trade Echoes From The Past

December 2, 1999

Some analysts point to a striking similarity between our era and that of the end of the 19th century -- particularly in the trade arena.

Globalization of trade was well underway 100 years ago, until World War I just about finished it.

  • The rise of the Internet is facilitating trade today -- much as the development of the telegraph, railroads and steamships did around 1900.
  • In 1913, Britain was exporting capital equal to 9 percent of gross domestic product a year, financing much of the infrastructure of the U.S., Canada, Australia and Argentina -- much as the developed countries are funding growth in developing countries today.
  • Today, the average level of tariffs in the industrial countries is less than 10 percent of the level that prevailed in the era before the Great War.
  • The world's 60,000 transnational corporations now account for about one-quarter of the world's output -- and sales by overseas affiliates amount to $11 trillion.

Source: David Hale, "A Second Chance," Fortune, November 22, 1999.


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