Growth in the volume of world trade is expected to remain sluggish in 2016 at 2.8%, unchanged from the 2.8% increase registered in 2015. Imports of developed countries should moderate this year while demand for imported goods in developing Asian economies should pick up. Global trade growth should rise to 3.6% in 2017, WTO economists reported on 7 April.
The 2015 result marks the fourth consecutive year in which growth in world merchandise trade stayed below 3.0% on an annual basis. Trade was also unusually volatile over the course of the year, falling in the second quarter in both developed and developing countries before rebounding in the final half.
World trade in commercial services last year registered a smaller decline in current dollar terms (exports down 6.4% to $4.7 trillion) than merchandise trade, with goods-related services such as transportation experiencing stronger declines (down 10.3% to $870 billion) than other categories. The relative strength of services is not surprising, since this type of trade tends to be less sensitive to business cycles than trade in goods.
1. World merchandise trade volume expected to grow by 2.8% in 2016, unchanged from 2.8% in 2015, as GDP eases in developed economies and picks up in developing ones.
2. Trade growth should accelerate to 3.6% in 2017, still below the average of 5.0% since 1990. Risks to the forecast are tilted to the downside, including further slowing in emerging economies and financial volatility.
3. South America recorded the weakest import growth of any region in 2015 as a severe recession in Brazil depressed demand.
4. Exports of developed economies lagged behind developing countries in 2015, with 2.6% volume growth in the former and 3.3% in the latter.
5. Developed economies imports surged last year while developing countries stagnated, with growth of 4.5% in the former and 0.2% in the latter.
6. A sharp trade slowdown affected all regions in 2015Q2 but was mostly reversed by the end of the year.
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