Global trade’s recovery from COVID-19 crisis hits record high: UNCTAD

Global trade’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis hit a record high in the first quarter of 2021, increasing by 10 per cent year-over-year and 4 per cent quarter-over-quarter, according to UNCTAD’s Global Trade Update released today. The rebound continued to be largely fueled by trade in goods. In contrast, trade in services continued to lag behind.

The rebound is expected to continue into Q2 2021, with the value of global trade in goods and services forecast to reach $6.6 trillion. This is equivalent to a year-over-year increase of about 31 per cent relative to the lowest point of 2020 and of about 3 per cent relative to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the UNCTAD report said.

UNCTAD forecasts trade growth for 2021 at about 16 per cent (in values). Still, the positive outlook is largely dependent on reducing pandemic restrictions, a persisting positive trend in commodity prices, overall restraints from trade protectionist policies, and supportive macroeconomic and fiscal conditions.

Trade recovery remains uneven, the report highlights, especially among developing countries, with exports from East Asia rebounding substantially faster. East Asian economies are also behind the recovery of trade among developing countries (South-South trade). When trade figures from East Asian developing economies are excluded, South-South trade remains below averages.

Among major economies, China’s exports continue to register a strong increase not only from 2020 averages but also in relation to pre-pandemic levels. In contrast, exports from Russia remain below 2019 averages.

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