Trade shows signs of rebound from COVID-19, recovery still uncertain

World trade shows signs of bouncing back from a deep, COVID-19 induced slump, but World Trade Organization economists caution that any recovery could be disrupted by the ongoing pandemic effects.

The WTO now forecasts a 9.2% decline in the volume of world merchandise trade for 2020, followed by a 7.2% rise in 2021 (Chart 1). These estimates are subject to an unusually high degree of uncertainty since they depend on the evolution of the pandemic and government responses to it.

Current data suggests a projected decline for the current year that is less severe than the 12.9% drop foreseen under the more optimistic of two scenarios outlined in the WTO's April trade forecast. Strong trade performance in June and July have brought some signs of optimism for overall trade growth in 2020. Trade growth in COVID-19 related products was particularly strong in these months, showing trade's ability to help governments obtain needed supplies. Conversely, the forecast for next year is more pessimistic than the previous estimate of 21.3% growth, leaving merchandise trade well below its pre-pandemic trend in 2021...

This was excerpted from a 6 October 2020 press release by the World Trade Organization.