Equant Analytics, a newly-founded fintech and advisory firm, has found that there is nearly US$2.1tn more trade between countries in the world than the World Trade Organisation (WTO) estimates.
According to Equant, total world trade for 2014 amounts to US$21.22tn, an increase of 11% compared to the WTO figure of US$19.09tn. The firm’s trade data is based on the United Nations Comtrade’s dataset, which covers over 200 countries and tradition jurisdictions and 12,800 products and sectors. Equant’s approach consists in mirroring trade figures for two countries (ie. cross-referencing the figures provided by each and calculating a weighted average of the two so that export and import values are consistent), similarly to what the WTO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) do.
The graph below shows the difference in trade reported by the WTO compared to what Equant found. The 20 countries listed are those that have the highest difference between the mirrored data and the reported data, a measure that Equant calls the Equant Analytics Divergence Ratio (EADR).
Switzerland’s mirrored trade data diverges by 68% from its published trade. The divergence can be attributed to the country’s status as a financial centre – not so much one that trades in goods, but in money transactions.
China comes second for different reasons, one of these being the sheer size of the country’s economy, and the other being its relationship with Hong Kong. The two share a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) removing tariff and import duties between them. However, China does not report its imports from HK, whereas HK reports its exports to China, which affects the EADR.
Equant’s results highlight a lack of standardised data and definition of trade, which affects the way trade is measured and forecast. “This is a wake-up call for more reliable data,” Rebecca Harding, co-founder of Equant Analytics, tells GTR. “The market is bigger than what it is believed to be,” she says.
According to her, the unreliability of reported statistics creates a risk for the regulatory and financial systems as it could skew decisions to invest, finance or trade. She believes that various organisations have a role to play in providing that data, including the WTO, the International Chamber of Commerce and the private sector.
Equant’s data also forecasts trade growth for 2015/16 differently from the WTO. World trade is expected to be US$1.9tn more in 2015 and US$1.7tn more in 2016. According to the firm, this will translate in a US$448bn increase in world trade finance.