COVID-19 drives large global trade decline in 2020

Services sector remains hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to UNCTAD’s latest figures (8 December), the value of global merchandise trade is predicted to fall by 5.6% in 2020 compared with last year. This would be the biggest fall in merchandise trade since 2009, when trade fell by 22%. This is a significantly more optimistic nowcast than only a few weeks ago when UNCTAD nowcasts were estimating a fall of 9%.

The predicted decline in services trade is much greater, with services likely to fall by 15.4% in 2020 compared with 2019. This would be the biggest decline in services trade since 1990, when this series began. In 2009, following the global financial crisis, services trade fell by 9.5%.

UNCTAD’s quarterly International Trade in Services Bulletin, which contains the latest detailed information, shows that this plunge has been driven by a considerable decline in travel, transport and tourism activity.

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