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Global trade slows down to a five-year low in 2015
Global trade slows down to a five-year low in 2015, but negative growth rates are also a result of currencies' depreciation against the US dollar.
Today's trade news is shaped by a marked slowdown in 2015 world exports. According to UNCTAD/WTO estimates, measured in current US dollars, global merchandise exports plummeted by 13% in 2015. Services exports declined by 6%.
Measured in current US dollars, global merchandise trade was recorded at 16.5 trillion in 2015. International services flows, accounting for 22% of total world trade*, stood at an estimated 4.8 trillion. Developing and transition economies accounted for some 44% of global exports. Least Developed Countries' (LDCs) share in the world market remained at a modest 1.5%.
International trade of selected country groups, billion USD
Source: UNCTADstat database, based on statistics prepared by UNCTAD and WTO
On the merchandise side, developed and developing economies appear similarly affected by the decline of exports in 2015: a drop of 12% in developed countries against 13% for developing ones. Transition countries were more shaken (growth rate: -31%). The biggest upsets were felt by principal petroleum exporters (-37%), while major exporters of manufactured goods or commodities were less affected (-5%). The estimated fall in exports for the LDCs group during the last year was quite severe (-25%) and by far not outweighed by the development of their imports (-9%).
For international services flows, transport recorded a particularly hefty decline, of 10%, while travel exports dropped by some 5%. Looking at services as a whole, developing economies were much less affected by the trade slowdown (-3%) than developed ones (-8%) or transition countries (-18%). When it comes to LDCs, however, the early estimates indicate a different trend: their services exports increased by almost 4% in 2015.
Source: UNCTADstat database
Yet, the picture for 2015 world trade is less subdued than it appears. A significant part of the drop in the global exchange of goods and services can be attributed to exchange rate fluctuations and the depreciation of currencies against the US dollar, particularly relevant for some big traders like the European Union, the Republic of Korea, China or Japan. Represented in relevant national currencies, their trade growth is either positive or shows a much smaller decline than when reported in US dollars.
Source: UNCTADstat database
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* It is estimated that the share of services in the total trade of goods and services is actually much higher than the 22%, when the value of services imbedded in internationally traded goods is taken into account (trade-in-value-added approach).