WTO: Global trade to gain speed in 2014 and 2015

Containers being transported in Qingdao, China, March 2014 The recession of 2008-09 may have had a long term impact on global growth rates, says the WTO

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The growth of global commerce will pick up speed this year and next, says the World Trade Organization.

Trade will grow by a "modest" 4.7% this year and by 5.3% in 2015, says the WTO.

Next year's figure, if correct, would be in line with the average growth rate in world trade over the last 20 years.

These forecasts are consistent with other figures that show the world economy is gradually recovering from the financial crisis.

There have been some sharp swings in global commerce since the onset of the crisis.

In 2009, trade in goods declined by 12% and bounced back by 14% the following year.

The year 2011 was in line with the long term average, then came what the WTO calls a two-year slump - annual growth of around 2%.

Start Quote

Concluding the Doha Round would provide a strong foundation for trade in the future”

End Quote Roberto Azevedo Director general, WTO

The overall impact is that global trade is above its pre-crisis level, but well below where it would have been, had it grown in line with the earlier pre-crisis trend.

In fact, that gap is still getting wider and by next year will, on the new forecasts, be 19%.

So the analysis by the WTO does suggest progress.

But if world trade and its growth before 2008 was in some sense normal, we are still not back there.

But perhaps that isn't normal any more.

"In addition to creating a permanent shift downward in the level of trade," said the WTO in a press release.

"The global recession of 2008-09 may have reduced its average growth rate as well."

New trade deals

The agency's director general, Roberto Azevedo, said that just waiting for an automatic increase in trade was not enough.

He called for new trade liberalisation agreements, in particular the negotiations known as the Doha Round.

"Concluding the Doha Round would provide a strong foundation for trade in the future, and a powerful stimulus in today's slow growth environment."

Workers unload goods from a ship at  Lianyungang, China, in Feb 2014 Whether China, the US or the EU is the world's biggest trader depends on precisely how you add up the figures

The Doha Round began at the end of 2001 and has so far produced only a partial agreement, concluded last year in Bali, on simplifying trade procedures.

The new WTO figures confirm that China is now the biggest goods trader in the world.

Adding together exports and imports, China leads the United States, which is itself still the biggest trader in commercial services.

However, the picture is different if the European Union is treated as a single unit, counting the trade of EU member states with outside nations and excluding commerce within the Union.

On that basis, the EU is the world's biggest trader.

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