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Standard Chartered Trade20 index reveals the rising stars of global trade

Research from Standard Chartered has revealed the 20 markets it says have the greatest potential for future trade growth. The Trade20 index demonstrates that while existing trade powers like China and India continue to rapidly improve their potential, smaller trading nations are also making swift progress towards increased trade growth.

Fifteen of the Trade20 markets are in Asia-Pacific, Africa or the Middle East, and emerging markets dominate. Smaller, emerging markets like Côte d’Ivoire - at number one in the index - Kenya and Oman are on an upward trajectory, progressing at pace from a relatively low starting point. Buoyed by regional trade deals and liberalising economies, several ASEAN countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines also rank highly. Ireland, as the highest performing European market, owes its high ranking to its economic dynamism driven by increased levels of foreign direct investment.

The research determined each market’s potential for trade growth by analysing changes across a wide range of variables over the past decade. These were grouped into three equally-weighted pillars: economic dynamism, trade readiness and export diversity.

“The Trade20 index points towards the strong potential of a number of markets outside the China-US-Europe trade axis,” said José Viñals, group chairman of Standard Chartered. “With rising protectionism casting a shadow over the future of world trade, it is encouraging that many emerging markets are still improving their trade growth potential for the medium term, forging new regional trade deals to make this happen.”

“Markets that are demonstrating the most impressive pace of progress may represent interesting opportunities for corporates seeking new investment, import and supply chain partners,” he added. “With healthy trade fundamental to economic growth and prosperity, the Trade20 represent the rising stars of global trade: Those with the greatest potential for future trade growth.”

The ASEAN accelerators

The Trade20 points to accelerated Asian trade growth potential, with particularly impressive performances by Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Regional trade deals, infrastructure improvements, and legislative reforms are promoting increased openness.

The research shows that the higher a market’s trade growth with China, the better that market performs in terms of economic dynamism and trade readiness, showing that China is a major force for dynamic improvement in markets both near and far.

India performs well in the Trade20, largely driven by its trade readiness performance. The government’s efforts to prioritise trade as a key engine of growth and make the country more attractive to business are keeping it on an upward trajectory.

Banking centres Hong Kong and Singapore rank much higher than most other developed economies, demonstrating progress in trade growth potential despite their market status. Their key strength is economic dynamism: already-high levels of foreign direct investment continue to increase.

Three markets lead the way for Africa

Some markets that were lacking trade potential momentum until recently are now growing and modernising their economies: Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya are leading the pack and Ghana also performs well. Improvements in trade readiness - in particular infrastructure investments and increasing ease-of-doing business scores - is behind their impressive Trade20 rankings.

Middle Eastern markets diversify

Three Middle Eastern markets achieve a place in the Trade20: Oman, the UAE and Bahrain, propelled by export diversity improvements. This indicates the economies that are successfully moving away from over-reliance on oil.

Ireland stands out in Europe

European markets mostly rank outside the Trade20, predominantly because they are developed economies so the space to grow their trade potential further is limited. Multinational magnet Ireland stands out as a notable exception: it is the only EU country to appear in the Trade20, driven primarily by its high levels of economic dynamism.

In Latin America, Chile pulls ahead

Unlike emerging markets in other regions, Latin American economies score less well. Chile is the only American market to achieve a place in the Trade20, with its scores propelled by infrastructure and e-commerce improvements.


Trade20 examines 12 metrics across 66 global markets - the major global economies plus the major economies in each region - to reveal the 20 economies that are most rapidly improving their potential for trade growth.

While most traditional trade indices are based on a market’s present performance, the Trade20 index captures changes over time to reveal the markets that have seen the most improvement over the last decade. This reveals the economies where recent positive developments may point to an acceleration in trade growth potential.

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