American Shipper

World trade volumes decline in Q1

During the first quarter of 2016, world trade volumes fell 1.1 percent from the prior quarter and 1 percent from the corresponding quarter in 2015.

   World trade experienced a 1.1 percent decline in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the previous quarter and a 1 percent drop compared to the same period last year, according quarterly trade volume statistics released last week by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
   The WTO and UNCTAD said global exports fell 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016, with Asia recording the largest drop at 2.7 percent. All countries in Asia, with the exception of Thailand at a plus-3 percent growth in exports, recorded export declines. Conversely, exports from South and Central America rose 3.7 percent and exports from Africa, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States increased 4.2 percent collectively, the organizations said.
   Global imports fell 1.5 percent during the first quarter, with Asia experiencing a decrease of 3.9 percent and South and Central America dropping off by 1.5 percent. Europe saw a slight increase in imports at 0.6 percent, which the WTO and UNCTAD stating this was “fueled by stronger demand in the European Union (with imports from outside the EU growing by 2.6 percent).”
   “This first quarter result was slightly weaker than anticipated. However, it is too soon to say how this will affect levels of trade growth over the course of the year,” the organizations said.
   However, in April, the WTO predicted that growth in the volume of world trade is expected to remain “sluggish” in 2016 at 2.8 percent, unchanged from the 2.8 percent increase reached in 2015. The WTO expects demand for imported goods in developing Asian countries to pick up somewhat in 2016, and even stated that “global trade growth should rise to 3.6 percent in 2017.”
   Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director general, said in April that 2016 will mark the fifth consecutive year of trade growth below 3 percent.
   “While the volume of global trade is growing, its value has fallen because of shifting exchange rates and falls in commodity prices. This could undermine fragile economic growth in vulnerable developing countries. There remains as well the threat of creeping protectionism as many governments continue to apply trade restrictions and the stock of these barriers continues to grow,” Azevêdo warned.
   “WTO members can take a number steps to use trade to lift global economic growth — from rolling back trade restrictive measures, to implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,” he said. “This agreement will dramatically cut trade costs around the world, thereby potentially boosting trade by up to $1 trillion a year.”