GENEVA -- Global commerce is set to grow 3.3% this year, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday, as persistent gloom in Europe led it to cut a previous forecast of 4.5%.
The announcement marked the second time that the WTO has reined in its figures for 2013, after initially estimating that world trade would expand 5.6%.
"Improved economic prospects for the United States in 2013 should only partly offset the continued weakness in the European Union, whose economy is expected to remain flat or even contract slightly this year according to consensus estimates," the WTO said.
"China's growth should continue to outpace other leading economies, cushioning the slowdown, but exports will still be constrained by weak demand in Europe," it added.
As a result, this year looks set to be a "near repeat" of 2012, with both trade and output expanding slowly.
Last year, the WTO said, global commerce expanded 2% from the level in 2011, compared with growth of 5.2% that year.
That reflected the gloomy economic picture in developed nations, as the WTO's first estimation for 2012 had been for growth of 3.7%.
"The abrupt deceleration of trade in 2012 was attributed to slow growth in developed economies and recurring bouts of uncertainty over the future of the euro," the WTO said Wednesday.
"Flagging output and high unemployment in developed countries reduced imports and fed through to a lower pace of export growth in both developed and developing economies," it added.
In 2012, the dollar value of world merchandise exports only increased 0.2% to $18.3 trillion, it underlined.
That trend was driven by falling prices for traded goods, with commodities such as coffee, cotton, iron ore and coal seeing major drops, while oil remained relatively stable.
Meanwhile, the value of world commercial services exports rose 2% to $4.3 trillion.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013