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WTO warns global trade to drop up to 32% in 2020

World Trade Organization (WTO) unveiled a scary PR on 8 April where it indicted that overall global trade- including apparel and textiles- could drop between 13 to 32 percent due to the Coronavirus pandemic this year.

WTO-warns-global-trade-drop-32%-2020
Figure: World merchandise trade registered a slight decline for the year of ‑0.1% in volume terms after rising by 2.9% in the previous year.

Trade was already slowing in 2019 before the virus struck, weighed down by trade tensions and slowing economic growth. World merchandise trade registered a slight decline for the year of ‑0.1% in volume terms after rising by 2.9% in the previous year. Meanwhile, the dollar value of world merchandise exports in 2019 fell by 3% to US$ 18.89 trillion.

Estimates of the expected recovery in 2021 are equally uncertain, with outcomes depending largely on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.

“The immediate goal is to bring the pandemic under control and mitigate the economic damage to people, companies and countries. But policymakers must start planning for the aftermath of the pandemic,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said.

The economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably invites comparisons to the global financial crisis of 2008-09. But restrictions on movement and social distancing to slow the spread of the disease mean that labour supply, transport and travel are today directly affected in ways they were not during the financial crisis in 2008-09.

Key points of the PR are-

  • World merchandise trade is set to plummet by between 13 and 32% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A 2021 recovery in trade is expected, but dependent on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.
  • Nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes in 2020, with exports from North America and Asia hit hardest.
  • Trade will likely fall steeper in sectors with complex value chains, particularly electronics and automotive products.
  • Services trade may be most directly affected by COVID-19 through transport and travel restrictions.
  • Merchandise trade volume already fell by 0.1% in 2019, weighed down by trade tensions and slowing economic growth. The dollar value of world merchandise exports in 2019 fell by 3% to US$ 18.89 trillion.
  • The value of commercial services exports rose 2% to US$ 6.03 trillion in 2019.

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