Cross-border trading will slow down this year as global economies deal with a rash of aftershocks from the European debt crisis, natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, fluctuating exchange rates, the Arab Spring protests and more, the WTO said Thursday.
The volume of international exports will grow 3.7%, after slowing more than expected to a 5% expansion rate in 2011, according to the World Trade Organization. In 2010, activity boomed 13.8%.
All that merchandise will be worth $18.2 trillion – a record high and a 19% increase over last year due in large part to spiking commodity prices. But the amount of trading will be slower than the 20-year average rate of 5.4%, the group said.
Closing the gap likely won’t happen for years, at least not until developed countries finish de-leveraging, the WTO said.
“More than three years have passed since the trade collapse of 2008-09, but the world economy and trade remain fragile,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in a statement. “The further slowing of trade expected in 2012 shows that the downside risks remain high. We are not yet out of the woods.”
With signs that the European Union “may already be in recession” and the U.S. playing catch-up with the labor market, exporting activity from industrialized countries will expand just 2%.