The 2012/04/23 at 05:40
Penalised by a degraded economic environment, international trade experienced a morose 2011. International trade progressed by 5% last year, marking strong deceleration following the 13.8% rebound recorded in 2010, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A number of factors explain this counter-performance: the subdued nature of the European economy in the midst of the debt crisis, the increase in energy prices (starting with petrol), revolutions in the Arab world, and major natural catastrophes. Yet the portrait painted by the WTO reveals a few surprises. Contrary to appearances, developed countries showed, in 2011, an increase in exports higher than expected (+4.7%), boosted by the United States (+7.2%). Taking advantage of the weakness of the dollar to inflate its overseas sales, North America has compensated for the negative impact of the Japanese recession relating to the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. However, the results of emerging countries appear to be disappointing.
Their international sales have only progressed by 5.4% despite a 16.1% jump in Indian exports and 9.2 % rise in Chinese exports. Deliveries from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have only increased by 6%. In addition, specify the WTO economists, floods in Thailand caused an 8.5% decline in this country’s exports in the fourth quarter. In Africa, the assessment is even darker. The Arab Spring uprisings and the 75% collapse in Libyan petrol exports during Western attacks have led to an 8.3% fall in exports all over the continent. The WTO, which expected a deceleration in trade after the 2010 improvement, shows prudence about the year underway.
“More than three years have gone by since the collapse of trade in 2008-2009, but the global economy and trade remain fragile. The continuing slowdown of trade expected in 2012 shows that the risk of deterioration remains high. We have not emerged from the situation,” declared the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. In fact, forecasts from the institution’s economists are hardly optimistic. It is thought that 2012 will be worse than last year, with growth in global trade at 3.7%, far below the long-term average of 6% (1990-2008). For 2013, the WTO predicts a slight recovery in international trade, rising to 5.3% if the Eurozone situation stabilises and if the inflation of raw material prices remains under control. In any case, the volume of global trade will long be below that of levels preceding the 2008-2009 crisis. According to the institution, the situation will turn around when governments, businesses and households get out of debt, in other words, in a matter of years. In the meantime, the world will need to get used to the idea of a long period of stagnation in global trade.