Geneva: World exports of merchandise goods grew 15% in nominal terms in 2008 to $15.78 trillion, while exports of services rose 11% to $3.73 trillion, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Wednesday.
In its latest ade Report, the WTO gave no forecast for trade this year, but in June, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy Pascal Lamy said the WTO had revised its forecast for the contraction in world trade volume this year from 9% to 10%.
That figure was confirmed in a press release issued on Wednesday, which said however the contraction appeared to be slowing.
“The response of governments around the world will play a big part in determining the magnitude of this decline and its duration,” the WTO said in the release.
Lamy and WTO chief economist Patrick Low are due to comment on the report at a news conference in Singapore on Wednesday.
The WTO report noted that trade rose 2% in real or volume terms in 2008 after rising 6% in 2007.
“However, trade still managed to grow more than global output, as is usually the case when production growth is positive,” it said. “Conversely, when output growth is declining, trade growth tends to fall even more, as is evident in 2009”.
The share of developing country exports in world trade rose to a record 38% in 2008, the WTO said.
Germany retained its position as the world’s leading merchandise exporter last year, with exports of $1.47 trillion, slightly larger than China’s $1.43 trillion.
China’s export performance faltered at the end of 2008. Its exports to the United States rose only one percent over the whole year after growth of 14% in the third quarter.
The United States was the biggest importer, bringing in $2.17 trillion of merchandise goods, 13.2% of the total, followed by Germany with a 7.3% share of $1.21 trillion.
Total world imports rose 15% to $16.12 trillion, giving a $345 billion discrepancy with exports, due to different ways of measuring imports and exports, the WTO data show.
The severity of the slowdown was reflected in a fall of 23% in air cargo traffic in December compared with a year earlier, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures, the WTO said.
The decline recorded in September 2001, when most of the world’s aircraft were temporarily grounded following the attacks on the United States, was only 14%.