This paper analyses the patterns of export productivity and trade specialization profiles in the China, Brazil, India and South Africa, and in other regional groupings. In doing so, the investigation calculates a time varying export productivity measure using highly disaggregated product categories. The findings indicate that export productivity is mainly determined by real income and human capital endowments. Importantly, the study reveals significant differences in the export productivity and specialization patterns of countries with comparable per capita income levels. For instance, China’s export productivity and implied export sophistication is in line with that of countries with higher per capita incomes, including some OECD industrial economies.