World trade primed for strong but uneven recovery

13 April 2021

Prospects for a quick recovery in world trade have improved as merchandise trade expanded more rapidly than expected in the second half of last year, according to new estimates from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It expects the volume of world merchandise trade to increase by 8.0% in 2021 after having fallen 5.3% in 2020, continuing its rebound from the pandemic-induced collapse that bottomed out in the second quarter of last year.

Trade growth should then slow to 4.0% in 2022, the WTO believes, with the effects of Covid-19 continuing to be felt as this pace of expansion would still leave trade below its pre-pandemic trend.

The relatively positive short-term outlook for global trade is marred by regional disparities, continued weakness in services trade and lagging vaccination timetables, particularly in poor countries.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo‑Iweala said. “Keeping international markets open will be essential for economies to recover from this crisis and a rapid, global and equitable vaccine roll-out is a prerequisite for the strong and sustained recovery we all need.”

The Director-General highlighted that trade through value chains has helped countries access food and essential medical supplies during the crisis.

Manufacturing vaccines requires inputs from many different countries, she pointed out, with one leading Covid-19 vaccine including 280 components sourced from 19 different countries.