Geneva, Switzerland – Global trade is expected to fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes, with exports from North America and Asia hit hardest.
The wide range of possibilities for the predicted decline is explained by the unprecedented nature of this health crisis and the uncertainty around its precise economic impact. But WTO economists believe the decline will likely exceed the trade slump brought on by the global financial crisis of 200809.
Estimates of the expected recovery in 2021 are equally uncertain, with outcomes depending largely on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.
“This crisis is first and foremost a health crisis which has forced governments to take unprecedented measures to protect people’s lives,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said.
“The unavoidable declines in trade and output will have painful consequences for households and businesses, on top of the human suffering caused by the disease itself.”
“The immediate goal is to bring the pandemic under control and mitigate the economic damage to people, companies and countries. But policymakers must start planning for the aftermath of the pandemic,” he said.
“These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that. But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible. Decisions taken now will determine the future shape of the recovery and global growth prospects. We need to lay the foundations for a strong, sustained and socially inclusive recovery. Trade will be an important ingredient here, along with fiscal and monetary policy. Keeping markets open and predictable, as well as fostering a more generally favourable business environment, will be critical to spur the renewed investment we will need. And if countries work together, we will see a much faster recovery than if each country acts alone.”