Global trade had a rough 2019 as weaker world growth and a manufacturing recession took their toll.
As the world now watches the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on businesses and households, updated figures from the CPB World Trade Monitor show trade volumes fell 0.4% last year. The decline isn’t huge, but it’s the first since 2009 and follows growth of more than 3% in 2018. It reflects President Donald Trump’s protectionist stance and the U.S. trade war with China, as well as Germany’s industrial slump.
There was hope for a better 2020, and surveys of business activity and manufacturing had started to slowly improve. But the outbreak of the virus, which has shut huge areas of China, closed factories, and now spread internationally, has put a damper on that.
Even at the end of 2019, the trade situation remained weak. The CPB said trade momentum, based on three-month figures, showed a 0.4% decline. December alone showed a small monthly increase.
By Fergal O'Brien