19 October 2001
World trade slows sharply in 2001 amid the uncertain international situation
Developing countries contributed to the vigorous expansion of world output and trade in 2000
Growth in world merchandise trade is expected to slow in volume terms to only 2% in 2001 — compared with 12% in 2000. Even this growth is not assured given the present great uncertainties about economic and trade developments, according to the report International Trade Statistics, 2001 published today (25 October 2001) by the World Trade Organization.
These projections are based on preliminary figures for the first half of 2001 which suggest that the deceleration of trade growth this year will be much sharper than previously expected (early in 2001, trade was expected to grow by about 7% this year). An important factor behind the sharper-than-expected slowdown in world economic growth is the steep fall in expenditure on information technology products. Other factors include the unexpectedly strong slowdown in demand growth in Western Europe and the stagnation of merchandise imports into the United States.
Growth in the value of North America's trade decelerated throughout the first six months of 2001, and in the second quarter both exports and imports were below their year-earlier levels. Western Europe's merchandise exports and imports values are estimated to have increased by only 2.5% and 1.5%, respectively (measured in euros, the increases are 9.5% and 8.5%, respectively). For the world as a whole, the value of merchandise trade was up only 1% in the first half, compared with a 12.5% gain for 2000 as a whole.
Strong growth in trade in 2000 back to top
The report notes that 2001 contrasts sharply with the outstanding growth in global output and trade in 2000, when the expansion of merchandise output and trade — by 4.5% and 12% respectively — was the strongest in more than a decade. Economic growth accelerated in all major regions in 2000. North America and developing Asia, which had each recorded GDP growth above the global average in 1999, recorded only moderate accelerations. In contrast, economic activity picked up strongly in South America and Russia, after stagnating the previous year. Africa's output growth is estimated to have strengthened in 2000, but to a level still below that of other developing nations, while Western Europe's economic growth increased to 3.4%, its strongest expansion in the last decade. Japan's recovery meanwhile remained modest and fragile.
The developing countries made an above average contribution to the vigorous expansion of world output and trade in 2000. The estimated 15% increase in the volume of merchandise exports from developing countries was three times faster than their GDP growth, and their shares in world trade and output continued to increase as it has done throughout the 1990s. Moreover, only a small part of this is the result of higher oil prices. It is due rather to their ability to expand their role in world exports of manufactured goods, the most dynamic part of world trade. Developing countries accounted for 27% of world exports of manufactures in 2000, a remarkable increase from their 17% share in 1990.
Among other developments in 2000 highlighted in the study are:
The value of world merchandise exports was up 12.5% in 2000, triple the 1999 growth rate, to $6.2 trillion. World exports of commercial services rose 6% in 2000 reaching $1.4 trillion, with transportation services showing the strongest growth.
The product categories in merchandise trade with the highest growth were fuels (up 50% to $630 billion) and office and telecom equipment (up 20% to $940 billion). Exports of agricultural products recorded the weakest growth of all major product categories (up 2% to $560 billion).
High growth in the information technology sector was particularly beneficial for North America and Asia, while the rise in world energy demand and the recovery of oil prices boosted the economies of the oil exporting countries.
The value of North American merchandise exports rose by 12.5%, more than twice as fast as in the preceding year and faster than the 10% increase in exports of commercial services from the region.
Western Europe recorded its fastest trade and output growth — on a volume basis — in the past decade, as merchandise exports and imports rose by about 10%, twice as fast as in the preceding year.
Latin America's sharp rise in output in 2000 was mainly due to the recovery in Brazil and strong GDP growth in Mexico. The latter's real trade growth was three to four times higher than that of the rest of Latin America last year.
Asia and the transition economies recorded both the highest export growth among the major regions and the largest increase in imports, highlighting once again that dynamic exporters are dynamic importers. Despite the moderate acceleration of Asia's economic growth in 2000, its trade volume surged by more than 15%, about twice the average growth rate for the 1990s.
The dollar value of Africa's merchandise exports rose by more than one-quarter last year, lifting Africa's share to 2.3% of world merchandise exports.
The 49 least-developed countries (LDCs) as a group shared in the dynamic global output and trade expansion, as their GDP and trade growth exceeded the global average. The US dollar value of their merchandise exports rose by 28% although with highly divergent developments by country.
These differences in the export performance among the LDCs can be largely attributed to their product structure. Oil-exporting LDCs boosted their export values between 60 and 120% and the seven LDCs exporting primarily manufactured goods recorded a rise of 23%. However, exporters of non-fuel primary products — the majority of LDCs — as well as countries with civil strife, recorded a decline in their export earnings last year.
Trade developments of Regional Trade Agreements showed a great variation in 2000. Intra-trade of MERCOSUR and ASEAN expanded faster than total merchandise trade while for the EU and CEFTA intra-regional trade rose less rapidly than extra-regional trade. Intra-trade of NAFTA expanded faster than its exports to other regions. However, NAFTA imports from other regions rose as fast as its intra-trade.
Intra-regional trade accounts for a smaller share of total trade in commercial services than for merchandise trade in both the EU and NAFTA. For the EU the share of intra-trade in commercial services was 55% in 2000, roughly unchanged from the early 1990s. For NAFTA, the share in 2000 was, at less than one quarter of total services trade, about half the rate recorded for merchandise trade.
Leading exporters and importers in world merchandise trade, 2000(Billion dollars and percentage)
|1||United States||781.1||12.3||11||1||United States||1257.6||18.9||19|
|9||Netherlands||212.5||3.3||6||9||Hong Kong, China||214.2||3.2||19|
|10||Hong Kong, China||202.4||3.2||16||retained imports a||35.4||0.5||24|
|12||Korea, Rep. of||172.3||2.7||20||12||Belgium||173.0||2.6||5|
|13||Mexico||166.4||2.6||22||13||Korea, Rep. of||160.5||2.4||34|
|20||Saudi Arabia b||84.1||1.3||66|
|32||United Arab Emirates b||39.9||0.6||29||32||Norway||34.4||0.5||1|
|36||Israel||31.3||0.5||21||36||Czech Rep. c||32.2||0.5||15|
|37||Iran, Islamic Rep. of b||30.0||0.5||52||37||Hungary||32.1||0.5||15|
|38||South Africa||30.0||0.5||12||38||United Arab Emirates||31.9||0.5||4|
|39||Czech Rep.||29.0||0.5||11||39||Saudi Arabia b||30.3||0.5||8|
|44||Nigeria b||20.1||0.3||57||44||Venezuela b||16.1||0.2||14|
|46||Kuwait||19.5||0.3||60||46||Iran, Islamic Rep. of b||15.2||0.2||20|
|50||Viet Nam||14.5||0.2||25||50||Iraq b||13.7||0.2||61|
|Total of above d||6038.0||94.9||-||Total of above d||6178.0||92.6||-|
|World d||6364.0||100.0||12||World d||6669.0||100.0||13|
|a Retained imports are defined as imports less re-exports. See the Technical Notes.|
|b Secretariat estimates.|
|c Imports are valued f.o.b.|
|d Includes significant re-exports or imports for re-export.|
1.7 back to top
Leading exporters and importers in world trade in commercial services, 2000(Billion dollars and percentage)
|1||United States||274.6||19.1||10||1||United States||198.9||13.8||13|
|9||Hong Kong, China||42.1||2.9||13||9||Belgium - Luxembourg||38.3||2.7||6|
|10||Belgium - Luxembourg||42.0||2.9||4||10||China||35.9||2.5||16|
|11||Canada||37.2||2.6||9||11||Korea, Rep. of||33.4||2.3||25|
|14||Korea, Rep. of||29.2||2.0||13||14||Ireland||28.7||2.0||8|
|15||Singapore||26.6||1.9||13||15||Hong Kong, China||26.2||1.8||3|
|20||Turkey||19.2||1.3||19||20||United Arab Emirates a||18.8||1.3||…|
|40||Saudi Arabia||4.8||0.3||-11||40||Czech Rep.||5.8||0.4||0|
|Total of above||1320.0||92.0||-||Total of above||1315.0||91.3||-|
a Secretariat estimate.
Figures for a number of countries and territories have been
estimated by the Secretariat. Annual percentage changes
and rankings are affected by continuity breaks in the series for
a large number of economies, and by limitations in cross-country
comparability. See the Technical