Global trade through the South China Sea totaled 28 trillion U.S. dollars from 2008 to 2016, with annual value rising from 2.61 trillion dollars in 2008 to 3.37 trillion in 2016, a U.S. leading think tank said in a report Friday.
In pursuit of an accurate estimation, a team led by Bonnie Glaser with Center for Strategic & International Studies constructed a new dataset for South China Sea trade using common shipping routes, automatic identification system data and bilateral trade flows.
The new research finds an estimated 3.37 trillion dollars in trade passed through the South China Sea in 2016.
These estimates represent a sizeable proportion of international trade, constituting some 21 percent of global trade in 2016, the research said.
According to the report, trade though the waterway increased in six years out of eight during the time period of 2009 to 2016. In other words, the territory disputes in the South China Sea in recent years did not stop maritime trade from booming.
"For many of the world's largest economies, the South China Sea is an essential maritime crossroads for trade," the report said.
Over 64 percent of China's maritime trade transited the waterway in 2016, while nearly 42 percent of that of Japan's passed through the South China Sea in the same year. The United States was less reliant on South China Sea, also with over 14 percent of its maritime trade passing through the region.
"Given the significance of the South China Sea for Chinese trade, Beijing may be more inclined to take steps to preserve the free flow of trade," said the report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in July that China has been committed to peacefully solving disputes over the South China Sea through consultation and negotiation with countries directly concerned and determined to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also said during his visit to Australia in March that as one of the largest traders of goods in the world, China's interests are at stake in the region, where a large proportion of aircraft and ships that fly over or sail through are engaged in China's trade with the rest of the world.
The South China Sea has always been peaceful and stable, said Li, adding that last year alone there were more than 100,000 commercial ships sailing through the region and people heard little about attacks or piracy against the ships.
"Maintaining peace and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight is the shared responsibility of all countries in the region," Li stressed.