GENEVA: Supply chain disruptions and rising Covid-19 cases reduced the volume of global merchandise trade by 0.8 per cent in the third quarter, ending a 12-month run of solid expansion, according to a report Monday from the World Trade Organization.
The Geneva-based WTO said North American and European imports were weaker than expected, and exports from both regions declined. Now the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus has “tipped the balance of risks towards the downside” the WTO said.
Europe, which represents more than 35 per cent of world merchandise trade, has the highest case count of any region. Seasonally adjusted exports fell 1.9 per cent in North America and dropped 1 per cent in Europe from the previous quarter.
Third-quarter imports declined by 0.5 per cent in Europe and rose 0.4 per cent in North America. The WTO previously expected merchandise trade to grow 2.6 per cent in Europe and 1.5 per cent in North America for the three months through September.
Trade volume was still up 11.9 per cent year to date through September - down slightly from the WTO’s October prediction of a 12.7 per cent rise over the same period.
“The forecast of a 10.8 per cent increase in merchandise trade for the whole of 2021 could still be realised if fourth quarter data show a pickup in volume growth,” the WTO said. “This is a real possibility since measures to unblock container ports on the west coast of the United States have met with some success.”