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April 2, 2019

Global trade growth faces strong headwinds as trade tensions persist

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) global trade will continue to face strong headwinds in 2019 and 2020 after growing more slowly than expected in 2018 due to rising trade tensions and increased economic uncertainty.

WTO economists expect merchandise trade volume growth to fall to 2.6% in 2019 - down from 3.0% in 2018. Trade growth could then rebound to 3.0% in 2020; however, this is dependent on an easing of trade tensions.

The preliminary estimate of 3.0% for world trade growth in 2018 is below the WTO's most recent forecast of 3.9% issued last September. The shortfall is mostly explained by a worse-than-expected result in the fourth quarter, when world trade as measured by the average of exports and imports declined by 0.3%. Until then, third quarter trade had been up 3.8%, in line with WTO projections.

Trade growth in 2018 was weighed down by several factors, including new tariffs and retaliatory measures affecting widely-traded goods, weaker global economic growth, volatility in financial markets and tighter monetary conditions in developed countries, among others.


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