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UNCTAD: Global merchandise trade exceeds pre-COVID-19 level, but services recovery falls short

UNCTAD nowcasts show that trade in services has not yet reached its pre-pandemic level, while merchandise trade is projected to have surpassed it by 15%.

UNCTAD’s Handbook of Statistics for 2021 published on 9 December nowcasts a strong increase of 22.4% in the value of global merchandise trade this year compared with 2020. The strong growth will push the value of world trade in goods about 15% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Trade in services, however, will still fall short of pre-pandemic levels despite the 13.6% growth nowcast for 2021 after a deep contraction recorded in 2020.

The annual report presents the statistical landscape for 2020 through a wide variety of statistics relevant to international trade, investment, maritime transport and development. It also depicts developments in 2021 through data-led projections, known as nowcasts, for now and the immediate future.

“Reliable and timely data are in high demand as COVID-19 puts unforeseen pressure on decision makers, who are scrambling to get a handle on the pandemic-affected economic landscape,” said UNCTAD’s acting head of statistics, Anu Peltola. “These statistics are needed for evidence-based policy responses to the pandemic.”

The nowcasts incorporate the latest data available at the time of the finalization of the report. They don’t reflect the potential impacts of the new omicron variant since data are not yet available for December 2021.

The estimates will be revised as official statistics and other indicators for 2021 become available, with UNCTAD’s next trade nowcast bulletin set for release in January 2022.

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