It is becoming increasingly clear that Sweden’s position on the global export market has stabilised. For the third year in a row, Sweden’s share of the export market has remained unchanged, which indicates that the downward trend since the beginning of the 21st century has been broken.

Swedish goods exports currently account for 1.1 per cent of the world market. The fact that Sweden is no longer losing market shares is due to several different factors. One important explanation is that exports from the emerging economies such as China and India are not increasing as fast as they have done in the past. Another is that the investment climate in Europe – to which over 70 per cent of Swedish exports go – has improved somewhat since 2016. This benefits Swedish exports, which to a great extent consist of input and investment goods.

Global trade has changed a great deal since the beginning of the new millennium. Emerging markets such as China and India have gone from being relatively insignificant to being among the most important export countries in the world. The emerging economies – particularly in Asia – are thereby taking up increasingly expansive positions on the world market while Europe and North America are losing market shares.

Europe’s share of the total export market has shrunk from 44 to 40 per cent since the beginning of the 21st century. During the same period, North America’s share has dropped from 19 to 14 per cent. Simultaneously, Asia has increased its share substantially from 30 to 37 per cent. China is a strong contributor to the increase in Asia’s share and is today the world’s largest goods exporter. Other regions’ shares are at a much lower level and remain virtually unchanged.

The fact that Sweden has failed to keep pace with the emerging economies such as China, which virtually doubled its exports over the last ten years, is neither surprising nor problematic. However, the fact that Sweden has lost export market shares in relation to its most important competitor countries is more disturbing. Primarily, Sweden has lost market shares in the USA, Great Britain and Germany. The decline in the Nordic Region is not so extensive, but as the Nordic Region as a whole is Sweden’s biggest trading partner, the losses are noticeable.

Sweden’s position in important export markets has weakened in almost all sectors over the last two decades compared with our competitor countries. However, the outlook looks brighter for the two goods groups representing the largest Swedish exports – automotive and machinery. The engineering industry, in particular the machine and vehicle industry, dominates Swedish goods exports with more than 40 per cent of the total goods exported.

During the past year, Swedish exports as a whole grew at roughly the same rate as the world market. Most of the goods sectors increased at a slower pace than the world market, but three sectors increased at a much faster pace – namely automotive, electric current and food and beverages.

It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a new era in which Swedish exports retain or even advance their position on the global export market.

About THE Analysis

The Global Export report is released by Business Sweden annually and covers the development of Swedish exports including market shares in a global, twenty-year perspective.  The analysis compares the performance of both goods segments and services with key competitor countries. Read the latest report to get an update in which segments Sweden is gaining vs. loosing export market share.

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Global export analysis, December 2019
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