World trade expanded in 2011 by 5.0%, a sharp deceleration from the 2010 rebound of 13.8%, and growth will slow further still to 3.7% in 2012, WTO economists project. They attributed the slowdown to the global economy losing momentum due to a number of shocks, including the European sovereign debt crisis.

A significant braking of trade expansion had been forecast for 2011, but multiple economic setbacks during the year dampened growth beyond expectations and led to a stronger than anticipated easing in the fourth quarter.

“More than three years have passed since the trade collapse of 2008-09, but the world economy and trade remain fragile. The further slowing of trade expected in 2012 shows that the downside risks remain high. We are not yet out of the woods,” WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said.

“The WTO has so far deterred economic nationalism, but the sluggish pace of recovery raises concerns that a steady trickle of restrictive trade measures could gradually undermine the benefits of trade openness. It is time to do no harm. WTO members should turn their attention to revitalizing the trading system and to ensuring such a scenario does not materialize.”,

WTO economists cautioned that preliminary trade figures for 2011 and forecasts for 2012 were difficult to gauge due to the extraordinary levels of volatility in financial markets and in the broader economy for the last few years.

The preliminary figure of 5.0% for world merchandise trade growth in 2011 is down 0.8 points from their most recent forecast update in September 2011. These figures are adjusted to account for inflation and exchange rate fluctuations.Read more

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