Trade in commercial services registered a 20% year-on-year drop in the world during 2020, according to data from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Overall, trade in nominal US dollar terms fell even more dramatically than trade in volume terms in 2020.
The values of world merchandise exports were down 8% compared to the previous year, while commercial services revenue fell 20%.
Above all, trade in services was affected by restrictions on international travel, which prevented the provision of services that required physical presence or face-to-face interaction.
So far, the relatively positive short-term prospects for world trade are clouded by regional disparities, continued weakness in services trade, and delayed vaccination schedules, especially in poor countries.
In parallel, Covid-19 continues to pose the greatest threat to business prospects, as new waves of infection could easily undermine any expected recovery.
For all of 2020, travel and transportation services decreased 63 and 19%, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Other Business Services category (including financial services and computer services) held up well, dropping just 2 percent.
Finally, services related to goods fell 13 percent.
Transportation and travel services were directly affected by containment measures designed to limit the spread of Covid-19, many of which remain in place or have been beefed up in response to the resurgence of the disease.
After a 6% contraction in value in 2020, world merchandise trade would grow 19% in 2021, according to estimates from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
From the World Bank’s point of view, the recovery in world trade started earlier and has been stronger than that of other components of world production, as the impact of the pandemic on activities requiring face-to-face contact initially encouraged a rotation of demand towards the consumption of durable goods, which have a high commercial intensity.