WTO sees trade plunge worse than financial crisis

Global trade to fall 13-32% amid uncertain impact of health crisis

Reuters April 09, 2020
World Trade Organisation. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS: The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Wednesday forecast that goods trade would shrink more steeply this year than in the global financial crisis a decade ago before rebounding in 2021 as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes - if countries worked together.

The WTO said global trade would fall this year by 13% to 32%, giving a wide range because so much about the economic impact of the health crisis was uncertain.

“These numbers are ugly - there is no getting around that,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement. “But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible. Decisions taken now will determine the future shape of the recovery and global growth prospects.”

Keeping markets open and predictable, he said, would be critical to spurring renewed investment. Countries working together would see a faster recovery than if each country acted alone. The Geneva-based WTO said that for 2021 it was forecasting a rebound in global goods trade of between 21% and 24%, depending largely on the duration of the coronavirus outbreak and the effectiveness of policy responses.

The WTO also confirmed that 2019 had ended on a sombre note, with a 0.1% decline in goods trade, weighed down by trade tensions, notably between the United States and China, and an economic slowdown.

In October, the WTO forecast trade to grow 2.7% in 2020 after expanding 1.2% in 2019. It said that this year, nearly all regions would suffer double-digit percentage declines in trade, with exports from North America and Asia the hardest hit. Sectors with complex value chains, such as electronics and automotive products, would also see steeper falls.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2020.

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