Geneva: World trade followed a sharply downward trend in March, with volumes in the first quarter of this year 15% lower than in the same 2008 period, the Dutch CPB research institute said on Wednesday.
Trade volumes in the 12 months ended March were 2.9% lower than a year earlier, compared with a high in the current cycle of 9.3% growth as recently as January 2007.
The fall in trade volumes reflects the collapse in demand in many markets in the global recession.
The CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, whose data are used by the European Commission and World Bank, said the falls in the 12-month trend in February and March were the first since August 2002.
The World Trade Organization has forecast that world trade will contract by 9% this year.
World trade volumes in the first quarter were 11.3% lower than the previous quarter, amounting to an annualized drop of 38%, and the biggest fall since it started tracking data in 1991, the CPB institute said in its latest world trade monitor.
The drop was fuelled by a 16.6% drop in Japanese imports and 28.2% fall in Japanese exports, it said.
On the volatile monthly figures, world trade contracted by 0.5% in March compared with February, when it rose 1.1%, it said.