The total world order book for new ships is inequitably divided, with Japan 35-40%; Korea around 20%; Sweden, the second largest shipbuilder, has less than 10%, though the EU as a whole is around 20% (1996). All the developing countries building ships, taken together, comprise less than 5%; indeed their total share is exceeded by that of each of the top eight countries following Japan and Sweden. China (4.5%) and Poland (3%) are the most important newcomers in the market. Imbalances also exist in the proportions of different types of ships built.
There is little international law governing this sector. Since ships are generally not imported or exported, the anti-subsidies or anti-dumping GATT provisions on subsidies or dumping (the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, or the Anti-dumping Code) have never been applied in the shipbuilding sector. In December 1994 the main shipbuilding nations (the EU, US, Japan, Korea and Norway) signed the "Agreement respecting normal competitive conditions". An OECD Agreement on shipbuilding designed to create a level playing field was due to enter into force on 1st January 1996. However, the US has still not ratified it, so it cannot enter into force.