High-technology goods have been among the most dynamic components of international trade over the last decade. A country's ability to compete in high-technology markets is therefore important to its overall competitiveness in the world economy.
An analysis of trends in technology intensity show that in the OECD area, trade in manufacturing was mostly driven by high-technology industries over the second half of the 1990s and up to the beginning of 2005. In 2001, the strong downturn in information and communication technology (ICT) trade affected trade in most technology industries, but recovery was fairly rapid. From 2005, the value of trade in high-technology manufactures started to slow. In 2007 it stood at broadly the same level as medium-high-technology manufactures. Over the same period, trade in medium-low-technology manufactures rose sharply. The notable increase in the value of trade in medium-low-technology manufactures was due in part to the recent significant increases in commodity prices for oil, petroleum products and basic metals, particularly the metals required for the manufacture of ICT goods. However, in terms of shares, medium-low-technology manufactures ranked third and accounted for 20% of total manufacturing trade in 2007; high-technology manufactures and medium-high-technology manufactures accounted for 23% and 39%, respectively.
High-technology manufacturing contributes strongly to the growth of global manufacturing. Between 1997 and 2007, high-technology exports grew substantially faster than medium-high-technology exports in most countries, and notably in the Slovak Republic, Iceland and the Czech Republic, where they represented about 1.5 times the value of medium-high-technology exports. They grew at somewhat under 30% in China and by about 15% in Brazil. Over the period, growth in exports of high--technology goods outstripped growth in total manufacturing except in most OECD accession countries (Chile, Estonia, Israel, Russian Federation, Slovenia), Sweden and Japan.
In 2007, exports were particularly oriented towards high- and medium-high-technology manufactures in Ireland, Japan, Hungary, Switzerland, Mexico and the United States. China's exports were significantly higher than the OECD average, with high- and medium-high-technology exports accounting for about 60% of its total manufacturing exports.
Trade by technology intensity
OECD methodological work classifies manufacturing industries in four categories of technological intensity: high, medium-high, medium-low and low technology. This classification is based on indicators of (direct as well as indirect) technological intensity which reflect to some degree "technology-producer" or "technology-user" aspects.
To analyse international trade flows by technological intensity requires attributing each product to a specific industry. However, products which belong to a high-technology industry do not necessarily have only high-technology content. Likewise, some products in industries of lower technological intensity may incorporate a high degree of technological sophistication. No detailed data are available for services at present. Therefore the indicators presented here only relate to manufacturing industries.
OECD (2007), Staying Competitive in the Global Economy: -Moving Up the Value Chain, OECD, Paris.
Pilat, D. et al. (2006), "The Changing Nature of Manufacturing in OECD Countries" , OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2006/9, OECD, Paris.
OECD manufacturing trade by technology intensity: OECD manufacturing trade is calculated as the average value of total OECD exports and imports of goods. The OECD aggregate excludes Luxembourg for which data are only available from 1999.
Growth of high- and medium-high-technology exports: the OECD and EU aggregates exclude Luxembourg for which data are only available from 1999.
Share of high- and medium-high-technology in manufacturing exports: the OECD and EU aggregates exclude -Luxembourg for which data are only available from 1999. Underlying data for China include exports to Hong Kong (China).
Indicator in PDF
OECD manufacturing trade by technology intensity
Growth of high- and medium-high-technology exports, 1997-2007
Share of high- and medium-high-technology in manufacturing exports, 2007