Recovery in global trade to stall again in first quarter: U.N. report

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GENEVA (Reuters) – A recovery in global trade is expected to slow again in the first quarter of 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic keeps disrupting the travel industry after world trade contracted 9% in 2020, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.

After lockdowns caused trade to shrink 15% in the first half of 2020, it rebounded in the second half, with global trade in goods up about 8% in the fourth quarter compared with the third, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

That was largely due to developing countries, particularly those in East Asia, with trade in goods originating from the region up 12% in the fourth quarter year-on-year.

“East Asian economies have been leading the recovery process with strong export growth and gains in global market share,” UNCTAD said, adding that most manufacturing sectors rebounded in the fourth quarter, apart from energy and transport.

However, trade in services stagnated at levels seen in the third quarter, the report said, adding that exports of services from China, and to a lesser degree India, had fared relatively better than other countries.

For the first quarter of 2021, UNCTA projects a 1.5% fall in trade in goods versus the previous quarter, and a 7% drop in trade in services, although it said its forecasts were uncertain due to the pandemic and uncertainty about stimulus packages.

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