tree map trade

Picture Trade Beautifully

The Observatory of Economic Complexity offers a tool that is as beautiful as it is educational (not mention fun to use), enabling users to “quickly compose a visual narrative about countries and the products they exchange.”

Here’s an example.  Did you start to notice more Chilean wines on supermarket shelves starting in the mid-90s?  By selecting a country, year, and product, OEC calculates that Chilean vintners sent $596 million worth of wine to the world in 2000. Now change the year to 2014 to see that Chilean wine exports stood at $1.93 billion, having achieved 31 percent growth.

Chile lost half of its vineyards throughout the 1970s and 1980s to political instability and policies hostile to wine growers. But after that time period, Chilean growers were able to replant premium wine grape varietals, implement modern winemaking technologies, and shift their focus to high quality wines for export.  And we are all the beneficiaries.

At this point, the visualization itself will ask you what else you might want to know, like who’s drinking all that Chilean wine. The answer? The French drink 31% of Chile’s wine exports, the Italians imbibe 20 percent, and the Spanish (who introduced winemaking to the Chileans) consume another 10 percent of Chile’s finest vino.

Created as the Master Thesis of Alexander Simoes, the project was conducted at The MIT Media Lab Macro Connections group. The project is supported by The MIT Media Lab consortia for undirected research.