Future global trade will be shaped by a range of economic, political and social factors, according to a new report, with factors driving change including technological innovation, shifts in production and consumption patterns, and demographics.

The WTO’s 2013 World Trade Report highlights the way in which technological revolutions in transport and communications have transformed the world, with new developments such as 3D printing continuing the trend.

A growing number of countries will be drawn into international trade in the future, thanks to foreign investment and a greater geographical spread of income growth and opportunity, the WTO believes.

But higher incomes and larger populations will strain renewable and non-renewable resources, making careful resource management even more important, with more attention needed on environmental issues.

The report reckons regulatory convergence will constitute the greatest challenge to the trading system of the future, which will also be impacted by social issues such as employment and income inequality, as well as environmental concerns.

“The transformation of trade has been under way for some time,” said WTO director-general Pascal Lamy.

“It is manifested most clearly in wider geographical participation in trade and the rise of international supply chain production.

“One element clearly stands out in the report, and that is the importance of trade for development.”

Some of the main trends which will affect world trade in the coming decades are the emergence of international value chains, the rise of new forms of regionalism, the growth of trade in services, the greater incidence of non-tariff measures, higher and more volatile commodity prices, the rise of emerging economies, and evolving perceptions about the link between trade, jobs and the environment.