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Trends in export market shares between 1991 and 2001 : An international comparison with a focus on the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union [Working Paper 07-05]

The aim of this paper is to analyse the trends between 1991 and 2001 in the world export market shares of the bleu and a sample of other countries including among others the Member States of the European Union (eu). For this purpose, we apply Constant Market Shares Analysis (cmsa) to changes in the world export market shares of those countries for the subperiods 1991/1997 and 1997/2001.

CMSA is an accounting method that is applied ex post to a country’s (or geographical area’s) world export market share in order to link changes over time in this share to the country’s export specialisation in terms of geographical markets and commodities. The total change is split into a ‘structural effect’ and a ‘market share effect’ and the former is further broken down into a ‘market distribution effect’ and a ‘commodity composition effect’. The ‘market share effect’ quantifies the impact on the country’s world export market share of changes in its export market shares for individual commodities and geographical markets while keeping the commodity and market distribution of world exports constant. This effect is often also called ‘competitiveness effect’, but as our empirical analysis suggests that it captures more than simply changes in competitiveness we prefer the term ‘market share effect’. The ‘market distribution effect’ and the ‘commodity composition effect’ measure the impact on the country’s world export market share of shifts in the market and commodity distributions of world exports when its export market shares for individual commodities and geographical markets remain constant over time. These two effects show whether a country is handicapped by the market or commodity specialisation of its exports.


For the empirical application, we have chosen the cmsa method developed in Milana (2004) since it provides a symmetrical decomposition of the change in the world export market share, uses a homogeneous definition of world exports and solves the index number problem that arises in discrete time. The data come from the international trade database chelem of the ‘Centre d’Etudes Prospectives et d’Informations Internationales’ (cepii), which provides data in current dollar value of all international trade flows in goods. The sectoral and geographical breakdown of the data covers 62 destination countries or markets and 72 product groups.


The results of this application of cmsa for the whole sample can be briefly summarised as follows. Between 1991 and 1997, most of the European countries had to put up with a decline in their world export market share. cmsa reveals that this decline was caused either by a fall in individual market shares or by an unfavourable market specialisation of their exports. It is striking to see that for all European countries the market specialisation of the exports contributed to reducing their world export market share. The commodity specialisation had a rather limited impact on this share for the vast majority of European countries in the sample. The results of the cmsa are rather different for the four non-European countries (Canada, United States, Japan and the Asian nics) during 1991/1997. The dominant pattern is that although they suffered losses due to the ‘market share effect’, which can to some extent be linked to competitiveness, they were able to increase their world export market shares thanks to both the market distribution and, albeit to a lesser extent, the commodity distribution of their exports.


Between 1997 and 2001, the decline in their world export market shares continues for most European countries. The respective increases and falls can essentially be explained by the ‘market share effect’, i.e. changes in individual market shares, whereas the structural factors, i.e. both the market and the commodity distribution of the exports, have only little impact on the world export market share of the European countries. As for the non-European countries, we find almost the same dominant pattern as before, but now the losses due to the ‘market share effect’ are no longer outweighed by gains through the market and commodity specialisations; hence most of these countries lose world export market shares.
Splitting up the global results of the cmsa into the contributions of nine geographical areas allows us to locate the origin of the increases and falls in the world export market shares. The main handicap of the European countries in the sample is that their exports are mainly directed towards the internal market of the eu15. As the import growth of this area was particularly slow between 1991 and 1997, many European countries in the sample lost world export market shares during this period. For the non-European countries, the contribution of South East Asia accounts to a considerable degree for the rise in their world export market share during 1991/1997.


The results of the cmsa can also be analysed with respect to commodity groups. Here, we can identify a clear trend over the whole decade for all countries. A specialisation in exports of the commodity group ‘Electronics’ proved very beneficial for the world export market share. To a lesser extent, this was also true for the group ‘Chemical’. Among the other commodity groups, ‘Food industry’, ‘Textile’, ‘Mechanical’ and ‘Vehicles’ mostly contributed to a fall in the world export market share.


The bleu constitutes a special case. During the period 1991/1997, the bleu was one of the countries in the sample with the most significant declines in their world export market share, which was due to an unfavourable market specialisation. Indeed, most exports of the bleu go to the eu15. By contrast, the bleu experienced a sharp rise in its world export market share between 1997 and 2001 unlike almost all other European countries. This rise was caused by the ‘market share effect’, i.e. a surge in individual market shares. Moreover, it has ceased to lose world export market shares due to the market specialisation of its exports. As regards the commodity distribution of its exports, the bleu is at a disadvantage because of the modest share of the commodity group ‘Electronics’ in its exports, although this is compensated by the weight of its exports in the commodity group ‘Chemical’.

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