The United States' economy is the largest in the world as measured by nominal GDP. The biggest contributor to that GDP is the economy's service sector which includes finance, real estate, insurance, professional and business services, and healthcare.
The U.S. has a relatively open economy, facilitating flexible business investment and foreign direct investment in the country. It is the world's dominant geopolitical power and is able to maintain a large external national debt as the producer of the world's primary reserve currency. The U.S. economy is at the forefront of technology in many industries, but it faces rising threats in the form of economic inequality, rising healthcare and social safety net costs, and deteriorating infrastructure.9
China has the world's second largest nominal GDP in current dollars and the largest in terms of PPP. With annual growth that consistently outpaces the U.S., China may be on track to become the largest economy in the world by nominal GDP in the years to come.1
As China has progressively opened its economy over the past four decades economic development and living standards have greatly improved. As the government has gradually phased out collectivized agriculture and industry, allowed greater flexibility for market prices, and increased the autonomy of businesses, foreign and domestic trade and investment have taken off. Coupled with an industrial policy that encourages domestic manufacturing, this has made China the world's number one exporter. Despite these advantages, China faces some significant challenges such as a rapidly aging population and severe environmental degradation.10
Japan is the third largest economy in the world. Its GDP crossed the $5 trillion mark in 2019.1 Strong co-operation between government and industry and advanced technological know-how have built Japan's manufacturing and export-oriented economy. Many major Japanese businesses are organized as networks of interlinked companies known as Keiretsu. After the Lost Decade of the 1990's and the impact of the global Great Recession, Japan has seen an uptick in growth in recent years under the policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, Japan is poor in natural resources and dependent on energy imports, especially after the general shutdown of its nuclear power industry following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Japan has also struggled with a rapidly aging population.11
Fourth among world economies is Germany, with a GDP of $3.86 trillion. Germany is also Europe's largest economy.1 Germany is a top exporter of vehicles, machinery, chemicals, and other manufactured goods, and has a highly skilled workforce. Germany, however, faces some demographic challenges to its economic growth. Its low fertility rate makes replacing its aging workforce more difficult and its high levels of net immigration put strain on its social welfare system.12
India is the fifth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $2.87 trillion in 2019, more than 4% higher than in 2018. Because of its large population, India has the lowest per capita GDP on our list.1 India's economy is a mixture of traditional village farming and handicrafts alongside booming modern industry and mechanized agriculture. India is a major exporter of technology services and business outsourcing, and the service sector makes up a large share of its economic output. Liberalization of India's economy since the 1990's has boosted economic growth, but inflexible business regulation, widespread corruption, and persistent poverty pose challenges to ongoing expansion.13
The United Kingdom has the 6th largest economy in the world. It had a GDP of $2.83 trillion in 2019, up 1.4% from the prior year.1 The U.K. economy is driven by its large service sector, particularly in finance, insurance, and business services. The nation's extensive trading relationship with continental Europe have been greatly complicated by the resolution of Brexit subsequent to the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.14 As of Jan. 31, 2020 the U.K. is officially not a member of the E.U., but contentious negotiations over trade relations between the two are still ongoing.15
France had a GDP of $2.72 trillion in 2019, ranking seventh in the world.1 Tourism is an important industry and France receives the most visitors of any country each year. France is a mixed economy that has many private and semi-private businesses across a diverse range of industries. However, there is still heavy government involvement in certain key sectors such as defense and electrical power generation. The French government's commitment to economic intervention in favor of social equality also creates some challenges for the economy such as a rigid labor market with high unemployment and a large public debt relative to other advanced economies.16
The world's eighth largest GDP belongs to Italy at an even $2.00 trillion, up 0.3% from 2018.1 The eurozone's third largest economy, Italy's economy and level of development vary notably by region, with a more developed, industrial economy in the north and underdeveloped southern regions. Italy faces persistently sluggish economic growth due to a very high public debt, an inefficient court system, weak banking sector, an inefficient labor market with chronically highly youth unemployment, and a large underground economy.17
Brazil is the ninth largest economy in the world and the largest in South America, with a GDP of $1.84 trillion.1 Brazil 's diversified economy runs the gamut from heavy industries, such as aircraft and automotive production, to mineral and energy resource extraction. It also has a large agricultural sector that makes it a major exporter of coffee and soy beans. Brazil emerged from a severe recession in 2017 and along the way suffered a series of high level corruption scandals. In the wake of these events, Brazil instituted a series of major economic reforms intended to rein in public spending and debt, invest in energy infrastructure, lower barriers to foreign investment, and improve labor market conditions.18
Canada had $1.74 trillion in GDP in 2019, rounding out the top 10 economies in the world by GDP.1 Canada has a well developed energy extraction sector, with the world's third largest proven oil reserves. Canada also has impressive manufacturing and services sectors, based mostly in urban areas near the U.S. border. Canada's free trade relationship with the U.S. means that three-quarters of Canadian exports head to U.S. market each year. Canada's close ties to the U.S. mean that it has developed largely in parallel to the world's largest economy.
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