Global trade

GENEVA — The World Trade Organization on Tuesday revised downward its forecast for growth in world merchandise trade volume this year to 1.7 percent from the 2.8 percent projected in April, influenced by slowing import demand in China and other emerging economies in Asia and South America.

WTO economists also cut the trade growth forecast for 2017 to between 1.8 and 3.1 percent, down from 3.6 percent previously.

Coleman Nee, senior WTO economist, said world trade in apparel “was flat in value terms in the first half of 2016 compared to the first half of 2015,” increasing 0.3 percent, but noted this was better than world merchandise trade overall, which was down 6.1 percent year-on-year.

“Trade in textiles was down 3.6 percent year-on-year, also better than world trade overall,” he said.

The dramatic slowing of trade growth, warned WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo, “is serious and should serve as a wake-up call.”

“It is particularly concerning in the context of the antiglobalization sentiment,” he said. “We need to make sure that this does not translate into misguided policies that could make the situation worse.”

Similar sentiments were also echoed by global business leaders.

“Trade is very important to economic growth. We’ll do what we can to get the figures to go up,” said John Danilovich, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, in a statement during the launch of the “2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report,” said, “Declining openness in the global economy is harming competitiveness.”

The report, which ranks 138 countries, concludes the benefits of openness “are at risk: protectionist measures, especially nontariff measures, have increased and global trade has not recovered since the global trade slowdown following the financial crisis.”

The study — based on a survey of 14,000 business executives globally and 12 determinants of competitiveness, which include the macro-economy, goods market efficiency and innovation — ranked Switzerland as the most competitive economy, followed by Singapore and the U.S.

Concerning major emerging economies, it shows that China remained unchanged in 28th position, India moved up 16 slots to 39th, Russia was up two rankings to 43rd and Mexico gained six spots to 51st, while Brazil fell six slots to 81st and Turkey moved down four places to 55th.