Business Sweden’s study of industrial goods exports from Asia, Europe and North America during the period 2000–2017 demonstrates that an increasing share of exports are focused on home regions. There are clear signs that manufacturing is moving closer to markets where goods are delivered. This trend is particularly evident in Asia, where the share of near-market manufactured goods grew from 38 per cent to 49 per cent in 2017. The corresponding share has historically been higher in both Europe and North America, but here too, developments in recent years point to an increasing trend toward regionalisation of trade in goods.

Important driving factors behind the regionalisation trend include customer expectations for adaptability and fast delivery of goods and products, as well as experienced advantages of closer proximity to markets and deeper co-operation with local sub-suppliers. By shortening the distance between manufacturing operations and markets, companies can reduce the risk of disruption in their logistics chains and reduce transport costs.

At the same time, automation and other enabling technologies are reducing the cost benefits of low-wage countries which is benefiting traditional industrial nations. If implemented correctly, near-market manufacturing can bring considerable benefits in terms of reduced environmental impact and climate footprint.