World Goods Trade turns up Q1 after 2023 lull


The volume of world merchandise trade turned up in the first quarter of 2024 after remaining flat throughout 2023, according to the latest trade statistics released by the WTO.

Merchandise trade as measured by the average of exports and imports was up 1.0% in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter. Trade in the first quarter was also up 1.4% compared to the same period in 2023.

Most regions contributed positively to the upturn in trade volume, with Europe remaining a notable exception as its exports and imports continued to decline.

These are the first quarterly trade volume statistics released by the WTO since its most recent trade forecast was issued on 10 April in the organization's Global Trade Outlook and Statistics report.

In that report, WTO economists predicted that world merchandise trade volume would grow 2.6% in 2024 and 3.3% in 2025. The 1.0% increase in the first quarter is broadly consistent with these projections; if the current pace of expansion continues through the end of this year, trade volume for the whole of 2024 will be 2.7% higher than in 2023.

Meanwhile, the US dollar value of world merchandise trade was down 2% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024. The fact that trade values were declining while trade volumes were rising indicates that export and import prices were falling during this period.

The United Nations' UNCTAD, calls for a first-half increase of 2% in it's recent  report, noting trade growth varied across sectors,with green energy and AI-related products experiencing stronger increases.  The survey notes increased supply concentration and heightened geopolitical risk, with protectionism, trade costs and uncertainty expected to heighten.


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