World Trade Statistical Review

The WTO has issued their latest edition of their annual report on international trade statistics, which looks into the latest trends in global trade, with an in-depth analysis of trade in goods and services and in value-added terms. The report points to the major changes in recent years, and highlights the leading traders, which regions have the best results, the most traded goods and services of the least developed countries. The report also looks at the impact of COVID-19 on global trade and the outlook for the rest of 2020. Some key points highlighted by Roberto Azevêdo, Director Generale of WTO

Even before the pandemic, in 2019, there was a decline in world merchandise trade in terms of volume by 0.1 per cent. Influenced by political tensions and protectionist measures. This constitutes a decline of 3 per cent in terms of value. In comparison, in 2018 the volume of merchandise trade grew by 2.9 per cent.

There was an increase by 2.1 per cent in 2019 for world trade in commercial services. Down from its 8.4 per cent rise in 2018. All services were affected, with exports of transport services declining by 0.8 per cent as merchandise trade faltered, while travel exports grew by only 1 per cent. The only sector to record more positive growth was «other commercial services» with 3.3 per cent, which includes growth in telecommunications, computer and information services.

Covid-19 has underlined the growing importance of services sector, in particular the distribution sector, in keeping trade flowing. The crisis has also underlined the importance of digital trade. Improvements in bandwidth and technological innovation have been the main factors for the increase in e-commerce and digital trade. These advances make vital services such as telemedicine possible. In addition, the services sector represents more than one-third of the value-added in pharmaceutical supply chains. Disruptions to supply chains due to the COVID-19 crisis have had a major impact on the supply of medical products and other vital goods. The data in this report also reflect how changing consumer preferences in recent years have influenced global trade patterns, with consumers increasingly keen to reduce use and waste of products that have a damaging impact on the environment, such as plastics. Demand for renewable energy goods, such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, has also increased significantly in the last few years.

Kjerstin Østenseth
Member of the Board, OCC