Asia to lead global export growth

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World trade to recover modestly – WTO

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GLOBAL merchandise trade is forecast to grow 3.3 percent in 2015 and 4.0 percent in 2016, with Asia seen posting the strongest export performance by any region this year, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said late Tuesday.

The growth forecasts fall below the annual average of 5.1 percent that has been achieved since 1990, and well below the pre-crisis average of 6.0 percent, it said.

“We expect trade to continue its slow recovery but with economic growth still fragile and continued geopolitical tensions, this trend could easily be undermined,” WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo said.

Trade volume growth reached 2.8 percent in 2014, averaging 2.4 percent over the last three years or less than 3 percent.

The WTO’s forecasts in the volume of world merchandise trade for 2015 and 2016 are based on consensus estimates of world real GDP at market exchange rates from other agencies.

Exports of developing/emerging economies are forecast to grow 3.6 percent in 2015, while their imports are expected to increase by 3.7 percent.

Meanwhile, a 3.2 percent rise is anticipated for developed economies on both the export and import sides.

‘Strongest performance’
Asia should have the strongest export performance of any region this year with 5.0 percent, followed closely by North America 4.5 percent. Europe’s exports will also improve, with shipments rising 3.0 percent in 2015, up from 1.9 percent last year.

The weakest export growth in 2015 will be in South America 0.2 percent and Other regions (-0.6 percent, comprising Africa, Middle East and CIS), although small changes in export volumes from year to year are normal for resource-rich regions.

North America and Asia should both see imports increase by around 5 percent in 2015, while Europe records import growth of less than 3 percent. In contrast to this improvement, South America and Other regions are expected to record declines of 0.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

“But we are not powerless in the face of this gloomy picture. Trade can be a powerful policy tool to leverage economic growth and development. By withdrawing protectionist measures, improving market access, avoiding policies which distort competition and striving to agree reforms to global trade rules, governments can boost trade and seize the opportunities that it offers for everyone,” Azevêdo said.

The WTO said several factors contributed to the sluggishness of trade and output in 2014 and at the start of 2015, including slowing GDP growth in emerging economies, an uneven recovery in developed countries, and rising geopolitical tensions.

It said the dollar value of world merchandise trade stagnated in 2014, as exports rose just 0.7 percent to $18.95 trillion, while merchandise trade in volume terms grew 2.8 percent
for the average of exports and imports.

By comparison, growth in the dollar value of world commercial services exports was stronger, increasing by 4 percent in 2014 to $4.85 trillion, it said.

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