Grand canonical validation of the bipartite international trade network

A new algorithm unveils complicated structures in the bipartite mapping between countries and products of the international trade network.

Physical Review E 96, 22306 (2017)

M. Straka, G. Caldarelli, F. Saracco

Grand canonical validation of the bipartite international trade network

Devising strategies for economic development in a globally competitive landscape requires a solid and unbiased understanding of countries’ technological advancements and similarities among export products. Both can be addressed through the bipartite representation of the International Trade Network. In this paper, we apply the recently proposed grand canonical projection algorithm to uncover country and product communities. Contrary to past endeavors, our methodology, based on information theory, creates monopartite projections in an unbiased and analytically tractable way. Single links between countries or products represent statistically significant signals, which are not accounted for by null models such as the bipartite configuration model. We find stable country communities reflecting the socioeconomic distinction in developed, newly industrialized, and developing countries. Furthermore, we observe product clusters based on the aforementioned country groups. Our analysis reveals the existence of a complicated structure in the bipartite International Trade Network: apart from the diversification of export baskets from the most basic to the most exclusive products, we observe a statistically significant signal of an export specialization mechanism towards more sophisticated products.