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East Asia drives global trade recovery, says UNCTAD

Developing countries, especially the economies of East Asia, have pulled the post-pandemic global recovery process forward, the United Nations Conference on trade and development (UNCTAD).

Led by merchandise trade, world trade recovered in the last quarter of 2020, reducing its overall decline for the full year to around 9%, it noted in its latest quarterly Global Trade Update report.

While imports and exports of goods increased by around 8% in the 4th quarter of 2020, trade in services stagnated as health measures taken in the global fight against the novel coronavirus continued to affect sectors such as travel.

“The recovery process has been uneven, with many countries lagging behind,” said Alessandro Nicita, an economist at UNCTAD.

The report shows that the recovery in Q4 2020 was largely driven by trade in goods to and from developing countries, notable thanks to the good performance of East Asian economies.

Merchandise exports from East Asia thus increased by around 12% in the last quarter of 2020, while imports rose by around 5%.

In contrast, exports of goods from most other regions continued to show a negative trend, even in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The report predicts that the first quarter of 2021 is expected to see a slowdown in the recovery in trade in goods and a further decline in trade in services, largely due to continuous disruptions in the travel industry.

The UN body has expressed continued concerns over the pandemic, warning that uncertainty over the timing and scale of stimulus measures could also lead to a weaker recovery in trade in the coming months.

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