The South China Sea is the busiest maritime superhighway in the world – over half of the world’s merchant fleet and supertanker traffic flows through the South China Sea, and of the world's five busiest container ports, all are in Asia, and three are on or near the South China Sea. Not only is it a route for transiting international merchant shipping, but the region is also a growing economic powerhouse on its own –China is currently the world’s third largest economy and is growing at a rate of over 9% per year, while the nations of Southeast Asia also continue to see generally high growth rates after recovering from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
As a result, the countries surrounding the South China Sea form a very interesting case study in issues of international trade and – with the formation of a regional free trade area (AFTA) in 2003 – economic integration. With this in mind, this website seeks to provide an overview of trade in the South China Sea Region, focusing particularly on the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). We recommend you start out by reading our Overview Essay, which provides insight into major events that have influenced trade in the region, the current trading relationships between ASEAN and its largest stakeholders, and likely future developments, particularly regarding AFTA – an issue further discussed in the AFTA section of our website. Summary statistics on trade relations and recent trends are displayed graphically on the Trade Summary page. More in depth graphical information about imports and exports by sector to and from ASEAN, and the evolution of key ASEAN trading relationships with its most important trading partners is provided on the Trade by Sector and Trends in Trade pages respectively.
Additional information about the data used in the project, including the dataset itself, is available on the Data page, and information about the sources used in the creation of this project and additional sources for more information are listed on the Sources page.