Their declining share in world trade reflects the heavy dependence of developing countries on exports of agricultural and certain primary commodities for which demand has grown only slowly. Developing countries tend to find it increasingly difficult to find suitable markets for their primary commodities. Moreover, the prospects for increasing exports of these products appear limited in view of the low elasticity of demand, the decrease in the raw material content of industrial products which is the result of technological progress, and the rising production of both natural and synthetic materials in the developed countries. This is due in part to the growth in primary production in the developed countries (in consequence of a rise in productivity and protection of domestic production), to the increasing production of synthetics and other substitutes which displace natural materials, and to restrictive import, tariff and excise policies of the developed countries.
The scope for increasing exports has also depended on the state of world markets. The lagging recovery of western Europe from 1980-1982 recession has favoured the major exporters of manufacturers [vis-à-vis] commodity-exporting countries. Since the exports of manufactured products are generally not subject to limitations affecting primary products, the main emphasis will increasingly need to be placed by developing countries on expanding and diversifying exports of manufactures and semi-manufactures. An important question, however, is whether such transformation of the export structure will take place at a pace sufficient to ensure an adequate rate of economic growth.