In 2007, Hausmann, Hwang and Rodrik (HHR) demonstrated that export specialization patterns have important implications for economic growth. The authors developed an indicator of income level linked to the country's exports they called EXPY and showed that higher values of the indicator lead to higher subsequent economic growth. The present paper tests whether HHR's conclusions are valid even in times of economic crisis and rising prices of primary commodities, using data from 2004 - 2013. We show that, in the aggregate, higher values of EXPY are connected with faster economic growth. However, the relationship is much more statistically significant in countries that focus heavily on exporting primary commodities than in other countries. This implies that the rising prices of primary commodities in the last decade have altered the traditional link between export sophistication and economic growth. As a result, we argue that EXPY is not a good predictor of future economic performance when the prices of primary commodities are unstable. Policy makers must be aware that, while what countries export is important, it is equally important when they export it: in times of stable prices of primary commodities, a focus on the export of sophisticated goods generates higher economic growth in the future. In times of rising prices of primary commodities, however, the effects can be exactly the opposite.
international trade EXPY export patterns economic growth terms of trade