Growth of global merchandise exports could reach 10.4 % in 2018, UNCTAD says

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Growth of global merchandise exports could reach 10.4 % in 2018, UNCTAD says
Top goods exporters: transition economies (+24%) and Africa (+16%)

Geneva, Switzerland, 5 December 2018

​Global merchandise exports could grow by 10.4% this year, hitting almost $19.6 trillion, according to data published today in the 2018 UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics, which is marking its 50th anniversary.

The figures are the result of “nowcasts” based on merchandise and services trade trends which reconnect with substantial growth in 2017, when global merchandise trade increased by 10%, after two years of decline, and trade in services grew by 9.5%.

The Handbook underlines that factors contributing to the surge in the value of world trade in 2017 and 2018 are linked to an upswing of global GDP growth (3.1%), combined with increasing commodity prices (+17.7%), especially for fuels (+26.1%) and minerals, ores and metals (+12.2%), as shown by UNCTAD’s constantly-updated free market commodity price index. It highlights the fact that trade imbalances between developed and developing economies have been decreasing over recent years. 

This surge was also evident in the strong growth in maritime transport indicators compiled by UNCTAD: growth in world seaborne trade (the volumes of goods loaded and unloaded on the world’s seaports) was 4% in 2017, and container port throughput (the volume of containers handled on ports) climbed by 6% the same year.

A detailed analysis of recent trends estimated by the nowcast models shows that merchandise trade and trade in services grew robustly during the first half of 2018, although there were significant indications of a slowdown in the second half of the year. A global economic cooldown and adjusted expectations due to recent protectionist trade measures can explain this reverse trend.

For this publication, UNCTAD estimated nowcasting models for three variables: international merchandise trade, international trade in services and global GDP. This innovation responds to an increased demand for up-to-date information to monitor global international trade, study the impact of economic or political developments, and guide policy responses.

“In an era of uncertainty, with swirling fears of trade wars, reliable statistical information is more indispensable than ever. It is a critical tool for informing policies and recommendations that may commit countries for many years as they strive to integrate into the world economy and improve the living standards of their populations,” said Steve MacFeely, UNCTAD’s chief statistician.

Issued yearly since 1968, the UNCTAD’s Handbook of Statistics provides an overview of a broad spectrum of statistics relevant to international trade and economic development. Now produced in an entirely revised format, it provides a snapshot of the large amount of data publicly available on the UNCTADstat portal (

The use of nowcasts in the 2018 edition is a first in the Handbook’s 50-year history, In parallel to the printed document, UNCTAD is releasing the e-Handbook of Statistics 2018 (, a web-ready version of the report. Additionally, updated factsheets of the main themes covered by the report will be available in the UNCTADstat page (