Trends in Maritime Transport and Port Development
in the Context of World Trade
Carlos M. Gallegos
Structural changes in international trade and the evolution of maritime transport have a direct impact on port growth and expansion. Therefore, these elements and their recent characteristics must be examined, since they provide the frame of reference in which port reform in Latin America and the Caribbean has been carried out. These factors also determine future port development.
A. Globalization, production, trade, and ports
Globalization, or the expansion of markets and hence of the economic prospects of societies, is taking place not only because of the supra-national nature of markets, but also because of the flow of foreign investment and the strategies of multinational enterprises. These multinationals today account for two-thirds of global exports of goods and services and nearly 10% of domestic sales worldwide.
In this environment of increasing interdependence in the world, the international division of labor is changing as a result of structural changes in trade and unprecedented mobility of international capital. However, while the integration of goods and services and capital is progressing at a rapid pace, integration of the labor market is much slower. In addition, ever more sophisticated technologies are being disseminated, in a framework of spectacular streamlining in communications and telecommunications. The development of information technology has, in turn, boosted productivity and, in many cases, worker income. In general, electronic transactions and communications technology have been the necessary complement to full internalization and globalization and their major impact on production and world trade.
In mid-1999, developing countries began to recover from the 1997-1998 financial crisis in Asia, which had a severe impact on countries in Latin America. This recovery was spurred on in particular by growth in domestic demand in the United States and other developed countries, low interest rates, and the Asian recovery. As a result, overall growth in gross domestic product (GDP) rose 3% (similar to growth in the developed countries). Countries are now back on the road to growth they embarked upon in 1993 that was interrupted in 1998. The global economy is projected to grow 3.5% in 2000 (but only 3% in the developed countries).
In 1999, Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the worst economic indicators of the decade, due primarily to downturns in the Argentine and Brazilian economies. The region went into a recession (a drop on average of 0.6% in GDP). The region’s estimated growth rate for 2000 is nearly 4%, spurred on particularly by sustained growth in recent months in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The global economic recovery in the second half of 1999 was also reflected in the upturn in world trade. World commodity exports in 1999 were valued at US$5.46 billion -- up 3.5% from the previous year when a negative rate of 1.6% was posted. Export volume also grew, however at a similar rate to the previous year’s growth of 4.5%; and for the third consecutive year, the average price of commodities fell (excluding oil).
World trade in services rose 2% in 1999, after last year’s sluggishness, with exported services valued at US$1.3 billion, and there was a moderate rise in the international price of those services.
The regions of the world and the individual countries responded with quite varied demand and growth in their product in 1999. The situation in Latin America and the Caribbean was rather unique.
With the 1999 recession, the volume of Latin American and Caribbean imports fell 2% on average. However, performance in the region varied greatly by country. Imports rose 15% in Mexico, but fell 12% in the rest of the region. Similarly, the region’s exports grew 7% in 1999, but in Mexico the figure was almost double (13.7%). We...
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