World trade will accelerate this year, but there is still a long way to go before it reaches pre-pandemic levels
FRANKFURT, Germany – The World Trade Organization raises estimates for the recovery of global trade in goods, but warns that the COVID-19 pandemic remains the biggest threat to recovery hampered by delayed vaccinations, regional disparities and weaknesses in the service industry.
Demand in North America should be a major factor slowing demand for goods thanks to high fiscal relief and stimulating US government spending.
“The rapid, global and equitable introduction of the vaccine is the best incentive we have,” Okonjo-Iweala said at a news conference presenting the annual trade forecast.
She called for better distribution of vaccine production facilities around the world, so that poor countries do not have to “stand in line” for vaccines.
“Inequality of access is obvious and this cannot be repeated,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
That an accident on a container ship that temporarily stopped cargo traffic on the Suez Canal could cause so many disruptions is a sign that the trade in goods remains “relatively strong,” she said. Meanwhile, service industries have bigger problems, and the risk balance is tilted to the negative.
The WTO has said it expects commodity trade to grow by 8.0% in 2021, after falling 5.3% in 2020. Trade growth should then slow to 4.0% in 2022, a recovery that will trade and further left below pre-pandemic levels.
The decline in 2020 was smaller than expected due to a strong recovery in the second half thanks to the strong monetary and fiscal support of many governments. The Geneva-based international organization predicted a 9.2% drop in its estimate released in October.
“The outlook for a rapid recovery in world trade has improved as trade in goods has expanded faster than expected in the second half of last year,” the WTO said in a statement.