GENEVA World trade volume in goods will grow by a weak 2.6 percent in 2019, down from 3 percent in 2018, largely due to rising trade tensions between the United States and China, a range of tariff hikes, and increased economic uncertainty, the World Trade Organization said Tuesday.

“Trade cannot play its full role in driving growth when we see such high levels of uncertainty. It is increasingly urgent that we resolve tensions and focus on charting a positive path forward for global trade,” said Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director-general.

The WTO chief said “greater uncertainty means definitely lower levels of investment and consumption. Investment, in particular, has a pronounced impact on trade…continued uncertainty would continue to lower investment, and if you lower investment, you will depress trade figures.”

Asked about the effects of a trade war, Azevêdo said “the whole world loses,” and noted the net effect for the world economy and for consumers “is negative across the board.”

In 2018, the value of global trade in goods rose by 10 percent to $19.48 trillion, with China delivering a 10 percent increase to $2.48 trillion, followed by the U.S. with an 8 percent increase to $1.66 trillion and Germany with an 8 percent increase to $1.56 trillion.

The U.S. remained the world’s top importer in 2018, with the value of shipments up 9 percent to $2.61 trillion, followed by China with a 16 percent increase to $2.13 trillion and Germany registering an 11 percent increase to $1.28 trillion. In global apparel trade, WTO economists estimate the value of shipments expanded by 7 percent to $506 billion in 2018.

Major apparel exporting nations such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Italy and Germany posted gains, and relative newcomer Myanmar delivered very robust results. However, some Asian exporters such as India and Hong Kong registered declines, while the world’s biggest apparel exporter, China, witnessed a flat result with shipments stagnant at around $158 billion.

Bangladesh, the world’s second largest apparel exporter, notched a 12 percent increase to $33.1 billion; Vietnam a 13 percent increase to $29.6 billion; Cambodia, a 14 percent expansion to $10.9 billion; Myanmar, a 70 percent hike to $4.1 billion, and Turkey, a 4 percent increase to $15.6 billion.

The value of apparel exports was also up for Italy by 8 percent to $25.4 billion; for Germany by 14 percent to $24.8 billion; Spain by 6 percent to $15.5 billion; France, up 12 percent to $13.5 billion, and for the U.S. also up by 5 percent to $6 billion.

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