Hanjin Shipping

GENEVA — World trade volume in goods is forecast to grow by 2.4 percent in 2017, up from the weak expansion of 1.3 percent posted last year, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday, but it cautioned the predictions are marked by downside risks amid “deep” uncertainty about economic and policy developments.

Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director-general, said a number of early indicators point to a recovery in trade growth this year and noted container port throughput has climbed “to a record high,” while figures on global export orders “are at their highest level in several years.”

“These factors, combined with an expected recovery in global GDP, give some cause for cautious optimism. The WTO, therefore, expects world trade growth to rebound, to 2.4 percent in 2017,” he said during the launch of the agency’s “World Trade in 2016 and Outlook for 2017” report.

But the WTO chief was quick to clarify that because of ” the high level” of economic and policy uncertainty, “we are placing this figure within a range that goes from 1.8 percent to 3.6 percent.”

“Lack of clarity about government action on monetary, fiscal and trade policies raises the risk that trade activity will be stifled,” the report concludes.

“What we need today is more predictability,” Azevêdo said, and stressed, “countries need to resist putting up new trade barriers.”

In 2016, the value of global trade in goods fell by 3.3 percent to $15.46 trillion, with China reporting an 8 percent decrease to $2.09 trillion, followed by the U.S. with a 3 percent contraction to $1.45 trillion and Germany a 1 percent increase to $1.34 trillion.

In 2016, the U.S. remained the world’s top importer, with the value of inward shipments down 3 percent to $2.25 trillion, followed by China with a 5 percent fall to $1.58 trillion, and Germany’s, unchanged, at $1 trillion.

Concerning global apparel trade, preliminary estimates by WTO economists indicate the value of export shipments declined by around 2 percent.

“This is in line with the overall decline in merchandise trade for the year. if you compare apparel to other products, trade in these categories tends to be less volatile,” Coleman Nee, senior WTO economist, told WWD. “Unlike pro-cyclical commodities, like autos, and iron and steel, that rise and fall with the business cycle, apparel are necessities, and decline less and rebound less,” he noted.

In 2016, the WTO data shows, China, the world’s biggest apparel exporter, posted a 7.6 percent decline in the value of shipments to $161.3 billion. Drops were also posted by the some other traditional exporters including, India, down 1.3 percent to $17.9 billion, Hong Kong, down 14.8 percent to $15.6 billion, Turkey, also down 0.4 percent, to $15 billion, and the U.S., with shipments declining 7.4 percent, to $5.6 billion.

However, some Asian, African and European apparel-exporting nations posted gains in apparel exports. Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter, registered a 6.2 percent increase to $29.1 billion, Vietnam notched a 5.1 percent increase to $23 billion, and Italy managed a 2.3 percent hike, to $21.6 billion.

Other exporters that also delivered positive results included Germany, up 1.5 percent to $17.6 billion; Spain, up 3.4 percent to $12.7 billion; France, up 2.1 percent to $10.9 billion; Cambodia, up 6.1 percent to $6.3 billion, and Sri Lanka, up 1 percent to $4.8 billion.

Double-digit increases in exports were also recorded by Myanmar, with apparel shipments up 20.9 percent to $2 billion; Madagascar, up 15.7 percent to $479.5 million, and Ethiopia, a 30.3 percent increase to $101.5 million.

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