World trade volume rallies in third quarter after COVID-19 shock
Global merchandise trade volumes bounced back in the third quarter of 2020 from a deep second quarter slump brought on by the COVID-19 crisis according to statistics released by the WTO on 18 December. The third quarter rally helped limit the contraction in world trade since the start of the year.
In the third quarter, the volume of merchandise trade rose 11.6% compared with the previous quarter after falling 12.7% in the second quarter (revised up from an initially estimated decline of 14.3%). Despite the rebound, the volume of trade between July and September was still 5.6% lower than in the same period last year. The third quarter statistics for trade volumes follows on from the data for trade values, which showed a partial recovery according to a previous release.
More industrialized regions saw stronger recoveries in their merchandise exports, whereas the pace of expansion was more muted in regions that export natural resources disproportionately. Double-digit export growth compared with the previous quarter was recorded in North America (20.1%), Europe (19.3%) and Asia (10.1%, from a higher base due to a smaller decline in the second quarter), while weaker growth was seen in South and Central America (3.1%) and “Other regions” (3.3%). However, in year-on-year terms, exports in the third quarter were still down in North America (‑9.0%), Europe (-5.4%), South and Central America (-3.4%) and Other regions (‑11.4%). The only exception was Asia (+0.4%), where regional exports slightly surpassed their level in the same period a year ago.
Merchandise import volumes grew fastest in North America (16.6% compared with the previous quarter) and Europe (15.0%) in the third quarter after having fallen sharply in the second quarter. In contrast to its stronger performance on the export side, Asia's merchandise imports registered a modest 2.1% rise in the third quarter, suggesting a widening of trade surpluses in the region. South and Central America recorded an additional 0.7% decline in the third quarter compared with the previous quarter while imports of Other regions collectively increased by 3.2%. Merchandise import volumes were down in the third quarter compared with the same period in the previous year in all regions, including North America (‑4.7%), South and Central America (-19.4%), Europe (-6.4%), Asia (-4.7%) and Other regions (‑14.7%).