Ships get ready for their voyages in the foreign trade container terminal of Qingdao port in Shandong province. [Photo by Yu Fangping / For China Daily]
World trade is expected to fall by between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said Wednesday in its latest report.
"The wide range of possibilities for the predicted decline is explained by the unprecedented nature of this health crisis and the uncertainty around its precise economic impact," said the WTO, while releasing its annual Trade Statistics and Outlook Report, adding that the decline would likely exceed the trade slump brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
While all regions of the world are expected to suffer double-digit declines in their trade, North America and Asia are expected to suffer the most, said the report.
Exports are also likely to decline more sharply in sectors with complex value chains, particularly in electronics and automobiles.
The WTO recalled that 2019 ended on a gloomy note, with a 0.1 percent drop in trade, compounded by trade tensions and a slowing global economy.
It estimated that a recovery in world trade of between 21 percent and 24 percent could take place in 2021, but only if the pandemic is brought under control.
The report underlined that estimates of the expected recovery in 2021 are equally uncertain, with outcomes depending largely on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.
"The immediate goal is to bring the pandemic under control and mitigate the economic damage to people, companies and countries. But policymakers must start planning for the aftermath of the pandemic," said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.
Estimating that "a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible," Azevedo underlined that "if countries work together, we will see a much faster recovery than if each country acts alone."