International Trade in Mineral Commodities

McCarl, Henry N. ; Waters, Gary ; Vogely, William A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 45
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
INTRODUCTION In the past three decades, world trade has grown from less than $100 billion per year in the years following World War 11 to slightly more than $300 billion in 1970 and over $2,000 billion in the early 1980s. Adjusted for inflation, the real growth of world trade in 1972 dollars increased from less than $175 billion per year in the early 1950s to slightly more than $342 billion in 1970 and almost $700 billion per year by the early 1980s. Thus trade as a whole has increased a little more than twofold in real terms in the past decade." Mineral commodities constituted approximately 20% of the value of total world trade in 1970, and significantly more than that proportion in terms of physical volume. By 1980, de- spite rapidly rising petroleum prices, mineral commodities accounted for roughly 18% of the total value of world trade. Crude oil alone ac- counted for about 16%, making it the single most important commodity in international trade. The worldwide recession of 198 1- 1983 brought a dramatic decline in both volume and price of crude oil, shrinking the impact of mineral commodities to roughly 10% of the value of total exports, worldwide, in 1982- 1983. The decline of mineral commodities as a pro- portion of the value of world trade in the decade 1970- 1980 is due largely to the increasing importance of manufactured goods and consumer products such as automobiles and electronic items. During this period, mineral commodity trade expanded roughly sixfold in terms of current dollars to an estimated $350 to 360 billion in 1980. This was equivalent to doubling the real value of mineral commodities in international trade in the 1970- 1980 period in constant dollars. The U.S. Bureau of Mines has expanded the traditional definition of mineral commodities to include semifinished products such as iron and steel (in addition to iron ore), refined metals such as copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, and tin, concentrates, scrap, and petroleum products. Since large quantities of essentially mineral derivatives travel in this form, it is reasonable to use these expanded definitions in stating the role of minerals in world trade. Thus minerals in world trade comprise 30 to 33% of total export trade in all commodities during the period 1976- 1980 (see Table 1.3.1). In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Mines estimates the value of all mineral commodities consumed in the world (at the national level) and compares this value to total worldwide commodity consumption. By this system, mineral commodities range from 30 to 40% of all commodities consumed each year in all countries during the period 1976- 1980 (see Table 1.3.2). The growth in export trade in mineral commodities by commodity group is shown for the period 1976-1980 in Table 1.3.3. These data parallel the swings in worldwide economic activity during the same time period. By any of the above measures, minerals, especially the fossil fuels, constitute a significant proportion of both total economic activity and
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