Last year, 2015, was the first time since 2001 that the value of trade has fallen during a period of economic expansion, according to the report -- Key Indicators and Trends in International Trade 2016 -- which noted that the volume of trade still grew about 1.5%.
"In other words, while many exporters had to cope with lower prices, they saw no decline in export volumes," the report said. "Although positive growth is consistent with the overall economic trends, there are still reasons to be concerned."
To start with, the growth of trade volume has been below the overall growth of the world economy, something that has seldom happened in the last few decades and only during economic downturns as in 2001 and 2009, the report said.
Second, trade volumes have been rather unstable, showing substantial volatility during 2015 across quarters and across countries. Trade volumes have increased for the world as a whole, but for many countries trade volumes have in fact decreased.
"Finally, it is arguable whether the physical growth in international trade can continue in a deflationary economic environment," the report said. "The concern is that many exporters may not be able to maintain their position in the markets for long when facing reduced financial returns."