UNCTAD analyzed the impact of 15 sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic on international trade flows in the world, comparing the last three years.
Overall, the mixed trading patterns of 2020 gave way to a more general rally in 2021.
Preliminary statistics for 2021 indicate that, with the exception of the transportation sector, trade has recovered in all sectors during 2021, most of the time substantially exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
For example, in metals and minerals, the value of their trade increased 40% in 2021 compared to 2019.
Above-average increases are also found in agri-food products, chemicals, machinery, office equipment and pharmaceuticals.
Still, trade in the transportation sectors remains well below pre-pandemic averages even in 2021, largely due to a sharp decline in trade in wide-body aircraft.
To begin with, the economic shocks caused by the pandemic have affected foreign trade in some sectors more significantly than in others.
In particular, the lower economic activity in 2020 resulted in lower demand for energy products and thus caused a sharp decline in trade in the energy sectors.
Strong declines were also seen in the road vehicle and transportation sectors.
During 2020, trade also decreased significantly in the clothing sector.
By contrast, the value of trade increased during 2020 in other pandemic-sensitive sectors that included the production of home office equipment, medical tests, pharmaceuticals, and personal protective equipment.
International trade is largely related to physical goods. Although increasing, trade in services accounts for a much smaller proportion.
In 2020, global goods trade was valued at around US$17 trillion, while services trade accounted for around US$5 trillion.
World trade in goods has been volatile for the past 15 years, largely due to economic crises.
World trade has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. While services trade has historically been more resilient, it has declined considerably more during 2020 than in any previous episode of economic crisis.