The simple steel box that transformed global trade

February 11, 2017 Containerization

Perhaps the defining feature of the global economy is precisely that it is global.

Toys from China, copper from Chile, T-shirts from Bangladesh, wine from New Zealand, coffee from Ethiopia, and tomatoes from Spain.

Like it or not, globalisation is a fundamental feature of the modern economy.

In the early 1960s, world trade in merchandise was less than 20% of world economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP).

Now, it is around 50% but not everyone is happy about it.

There is probably no other issue where the anxieties of ordinary people are so in conflict with the near-unanimous approval of economists.

Arguments over trade tend to frame globalisation as a policy – maybe even an ideology – fuelled by acronymic trade deals like TRIPS and TTIP.

But perhaps the biggest enabler of globalisation has not been a free trade agreement, but a simple invention: the shipping container.

It is just a corrugated steel box, 8ft (2.4m) wide, 8ft 6in (2.6m) high, and 40ft (12m) long but its impact has been huge.

Source: BBC NEWS 09/01/17

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