The volume of world merchandise trade is likely to fall steeply in the first half of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the global economy, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Goods Trade Barometer showed Wednesday.
"The index currently stands at 87.6, far below the baseline value of 100, suggesting a sharp contraction in world trade extending into the second quarter," said the WTO in its latest assessment.
"This is the lowest value on record since the indicator was launched in July 2016."
The current measure is in line with the WTO's trade forecast issued on April 8, which estimated that world merchandise trade could plunge between 13% and 32% in 2020, depending on the pandemic's duration, and the effectiveness of the responses of countries.
Formerly the World Trade Outlook Indicator, the Goods Trade Barometer provides “real-time information” on the course of world merchandise trade relative to recent trends.
The current reading captures the initial phases of the COVID-19 outbreak, and shows no sign of the trade decline bottoming out yet.
Trade started decelerating in 2019 even before the pandemic because of persistent trade tensions, particularly between China and the United States, and weakening economic growth.
WTO trade statistics show that the volume of world merchandise trade shrank by 0.1% in 2019, marking the first annual decline since 2009 during the global financial crisis.
Trade was relatively weak in the final quarter of 2019, but the WTO said this is unlikely to have been influenced by COVID-19, which was first detected in Wuhan, China late last year.