Among the main categories of international trade in services, telecommunications, computer and information services were the only group that registered growth in 2020 (4.1%), highlighted a report by UNCTAD.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, international trade in other major categories declined.
Travel was the hardest hit, losing a whopping 63% in one year and heavily disrupting tourism-oriented economies.
International transportation sales (including passengers and cargo) fell 20 percent.
Meanwhile, exports of commercial services, intellectual property, financial and insurance showed more resistance and decreased by 3 percent.
Structure of services exports, 2020 (Percentage)
In 2020, according to UNCTAD, more than two-thirds of internationally traded services were provided by developed economies.
In particular, insurance, financial services, intellectual property and other commercial services dominated world exports and played a less prominent role in Africa only.
On the one hand, total exports of services from developed economies decreased by 17% in 2020.
On the other hand, the drop was 26% in developing economies, where transport and travel exports play a more important role.
It remains difficult for the developing world to compete in technology-intensive service markets, with the exception of some Asian economies.
In the fastest growing major services category (telecommunications, computing and information), developing economies outside Asia and Oceania captured only 2.2% of the global market in 2020.
After the 20% decline driven by the pandemic in 2020, global services exports have recovered during the first six months of 2021.
Growth of 23% YoY is now forecast for the third quarter of 2021, and growth of 13.6% is forecast for all of 2021 compared to 2020.
In 2020, world services exports were valued at $ 5 trillion, representing 5.9% of world GDP and 22.6% of total world trade in both goods and services.