GENEVA — World trade volume in goods, including apparel and textiles, is forecast to drop between 13 and 32 percent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday.
“We project that trade in 2020 will fall steeply in every region of the world and across all sectors of the economy,” said Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director-general. Global trade last year contracted by 0.1 percent.
Asked about the severity of the downturn for apparel, Coleman Nee, senior WTO economist, told WWD, “Our forecast required assumptions about the impact of the virus that imply a difficult time for the clothing sector, including a 20 percent decline in retail trade for three to nine months.
“This is better than tourism and recreation, which is expected to fall 80 percent, but it is still quite a hit,” he said.
In view of the uncertainty about the pandemic’s duration and economic impact, Azevêdo said, WTO economists developed two plausible scenarios.
Under the optimistic scenario, global trade volume is projected to decline 13 percent — with a sharp drop followed by a recovery starting in the second half of 2020. The pessimistic scenario of a 32 percent or more drop assumes a steeper initial decline and a more prolonged and incomplete recovery.
Regarding global trade in goods last year, the value fell by 3 percent to $18.88 trillion, with the world’s top exporter, China, registering no growth at $2.49 trillion, followed by the U.S. with a 1 percent contraction to $1.64 trillion and Germany with a 5 percent fall to $1.48 trillion.
In apparel, preliminary estimates by WTO economists indicate the value of exports stagnated in 2019, with almost zero growth from the $494 billion notched in 2018.
In 2019, WTO data show, China, the world’s biggest apparel exporter, registered a 4 percent decline to $151.5 billion. In the first two months of 2020, China’s exports of apparel (according to customs data) were down around 20 percent year-on-year, the WTO said.
Neighboring Vietnam posted a 9 percent increase in 2019 to $30.8 billion, it said.
Other emerging economy apparel exporters that posted gains last year included India, up 3 percent to $17.1 billion; Turkey, up 2 percent to $15.8 billion; Cambodia, up 5 percent to $8.5 billion, and Myanmar, up 23 percent to $5 billion.
Traditional European apparel-exporting nations that also posted gains, the WTO said, included Italy, which managed a 2 percent increase to $26.3 billion; Germany, up 2 percent to $25.2 billion; Spain, up also 2 percent to $15.4 billion, and France, up 1 percent to $13.5 billion.
In 2019, apparel exporters that posted declines included the United Kingdom, with a drop of 11 percent to $9 billion; Indonesia, down 4 percent to $8.6 billion, and the U.S., with shipments declining 1 percent to $5.9 billion.