The Bingham Canyon copper mine wall slide. Bloomberg/George Frey

Introducing resourcetrade.earth

resourcetrade.earth has been developed by Chatham House to enable users to explore the fast-evolving dynamics of international trade in natural resources, the sustainability implications of such trade, and the related interdependencies that emerge between importing and exporting countries and regions.

Welcome

resourcetrade.earth has been developed by Chatham House to enable users to explore the fast-evolving dynamics of international trade in natural resources, the sustainability implications of such trade, and the related interdependencies that emerge between importing and exporting countries and regions.

The intuitive visualization tools permit users to explore, assess and gain new insights into natural resource trade. We hope that the comprehensive and accessible data and analysis will help raise awareness of the importance of global resource trade and contribute to informed decision-making by government officials, private sector actors, communities and consumers alike.

The site covers the monetary values and masses of trade between countries, regions and groups in over 1,350 different types of natural resources and resource products, including agricultural, fishery and forestry products, fossil fuels, metals and other minerals, and pearls and gemstones. It contains raw materials, intermediate products, and by-products.

Until now, there have been widely used statistics for resource production and consumption but there has not been a comprehensive and publicly available tool to readily analyse commodity trade by resource type. For the first time, resourcetrade.earth allows for detailed examination of new, and growing, resource-related dependencies among countries and regions, and flows of resources through global value chains.

Major resource traders and categories

We initially developed the underlying Chatham House Resource Trade Database from UN Comtrade statistics to overcome this paucity of data for our research: it provided the empirical backbone of our 2012 report Resources Futures and continues to be an important contributor to our ongoing work on international energy governance, coal trade, global food security and illegal logging. However, as we have been providing on-request data extracts to decision-makers, journalists and researchers, this interactive site now ensures that everyone has access to these data for the first time.

The ‘Stories’ section of this site will expand over time, featuring expert analysis and insights on different facets of resource trade from Chatham House and our partners.

Resource trade insights

Bilateral trade statistics are critical to understanding global resource use, the importance of different types of commodities, and how these trends affect economic and political relations between countries. However, it remains challenging to track, and decipher, the dynamics of these growing resource flows owing to the dearth of accurate and accessible data as existing datasets are often difficult to access and use, especially given the range of commodities involved.

To strengthen understanding of the changing trading patterns in critical resources, Chatham House has made an extensive database of bilateral resource trade, the Chatham House Resource Trade Database (CHRTD), publically available on the resourcetrade.earth site. CHRTD reorganizes UN trade data into a natural resource hierarchy, giving users the opportunity to interrogate resource trade flows between more than 200 countries and territories since the year 2000 from detailed to aggregated queries, depending on the user's areas of interest and level of expertise.

For the first time, the site opens up complex patterns of resource trade for examination by non-experts as well as policy-makers, civil society groups, business analysts, and everyone with an interest, who can now easily explore resource trade dynamics to aid their decision-making.

The database includes the monetary values and masses of trade in over 1,350 different types of natural resources and resource products, including agricultural, fishery and forestry products, fossil fuels, metals and other minerals, and pearls and gemstones. It contains raw materials, intermediate products, and by-products, but not final manufactured goods.

Taxonomy of resource categories

resourcetrade.earth also includes indicative data on the carbon dioxide, water, and land embodied in some of these resource flows, where available, to give a more holistic sense of the environmental significance of resource flows.

National profiles, resource-dependence indicators, and indicators of countries’ standings across a range of environmental, socio-economic, and governance domains contextualize the importance of resource trade to countries’ development trajectories.

For a more detailed methodological overview please refer to the About page.

Only part of the picture

We hope that resourcetrade.earth will contribute towards greater insight in resource trade dynamics and interdependencies. However, our primary focus on bilateral trade does not alone provide full comprehension of resource markets: production, consumption, and individual supply-chain dynamics are also key.

For all the benefits provided by conventional bilateral trade statistics, they are somewhat limited by their atomistic nature. The CHRTD partially overcomes this by permitting the aggregation of natural resource commodities at various levels within a resource-based hierarchy, helping to build a fuller understanding of resource interdependencies. But comprehension of trading relationships is fundamentally limited: primary resources often originate from countries other than where products are directly imported from, therefore it can be difficult to establish the countries supplying the original resources that satisfy the final demand for that resource - or a derivative of it. Conversely, the driver of the final demand is not always apparent when products are exported from the producing country.

Within the confines of specific resource markets, a number of organizations are working to overcome this limitation by using bilateral trade statistics as the basis for linking consumption patterns to the origin of primary products, even in the absence of a direct trading relationship between the country of final consumption and the country of origin. And others are focusing on in-depth tracking of the impacts of resource production and trade along the supply chains of specific commodities.

In combination with these tools and initiatives, resourcetrade.earth offers a timely contribution to understanding the dynamics and interdependencies of natural resource markets. We are open to collaboration with others working in this field to expand this resource and the insights it provides. We also welcome requests for more complicated data queries: if you do have a request, please contact us.