International trade to fall by 20% in 2020

Cargo ship terminal, Unloading crane of cargo ship terminal, Industrial port with containers and container ship.

International trade in goods will fall by 20% in 2020 as economies struggle to recover from lockdown measures used to slow the COVID-19 outbreak, according to UNCTAD.

Data published in UNCTAD’s latest Global Trade Update, its newly released quarterly report on the global economy, show that merchandise trade fell by 5% in the first quarter of the year and point to a 27% drop for the second quarter and a 20% annual decline for 2020.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty about the possibility of any economic recovery in the second half of the year,” says Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade.

“International trade is likely to remain below the levels observed in 2019,” she adds, “but how far depends on the pandemic’s evolution and the type and extent of the policies governments adopt as the try to restart their economies.”

The data suggests that April was a particularly bad month for trade, with double digit declines in most regions. The worst affected was the Middle East, which saw exports fall by 40%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty and congestion across the world and ports, as hubs of international trade, have been severely affected.

For most of 2020 the biggest ports in the US have seen drops in traffic, particularly the West Coast gateways that handle substantial trade from China – Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

However, there is hope that the worst effects of the pandemic are over, and even that it may push the industry into developing an electronic Bill of Lading to clear the congestion.

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