Global trade trends and short-term forecasts

The economic and social disruptions brought about by COVID-19 greatly affected global trade during 2020. Overall, world trade recorded a drop in value of about 9 per cent in 2020, with trade in goods declining by about 6 per cent and trade in services decreasing by about 16.5 per cent.

The effect of COVID-19 on global trade was most severe during the first half of 2020 with a drop in value of about 15 per cent. Global trade began to recover in Q3 2020 and more strongly in Q4 2020. The recovery in the second half of 2020 was largely due to the rebound of trade in goods. Trade in services continues to lag substantially below averages.

In Q4 2020 global trade in goods grew by about 8 per cent on a quarter-over-quarter basis while trade in services stagnated at Q3 2020 levels.

World trade in goods recovers in the second half of 2020, but trade in service lags

The projections for Q1 2021 indicate a slowdown in the recovery of trade in goods (a 1.5 per cent drop relative to Q4 2020) and a further decline for trade in services (a 7 per cent drop relative to Q4 2020), largely because of continued disruptions in the travel sector. However, projections remain imprecise due to persisting concerns about COVID-19 and uncertainty about the magnitude and timing of stimulus packages in some major economies.

Note: Quarterly growth is the quarter over quarter growth rate of seasonally adjusted values. Yearly growth is the average growth rate of the last four quarters.
Figures for Q4 2020 are preliminary. Q1 2021 is a forecast.

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