WTO: merchandise trade increased 14% in the first quarter

The value of the world’s merchandise trade registered a year-on-year increase of 14% in the first quarter of 2021, the World Trade Organization (WTO) reported.

Both larger quantities and higher prices allowed this dynamism.

The steep decline and subsequent rebound since early 2020 primarily reflect trends in trade in manufactured goods, while other product categories made minor contributions.

Commodity prices fell during the first wave of the pandemic, but have risen steadily since then, contributing to spikes in trade in fuels, mining products and agricultural products.

In May 2021, prices increased 194% year-on-year for fuels, 54% for metals, 45% for food and 26% for agricultural raw materials, according to the price statistics of primary raw materials from the International Monetary Fund ( IMF).

Merchandise trade

WTO estimates for the first quarter of 2021 show strong year-on-year growth in all major merchandise trade product categories.

Trade in manufactured goods rose 16% in the first quarter after falling 18% in the second quarter of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, trade in agricultural products increased 11% in the last quarter, while shipments of fuels and mining products increased 9 percent.


The manufactured goods subsectors showed positive year-on-year growth in exports in the first quarter.

Computers, telecommunications equipment and integrated circuits posted strong year-on-year trade growth of 25-28% in the latest quarter.

In contrast, personal items such as footwear, handbags and clothing posted more modest increases of between 4 and 11 percent.

Pharmaceutical export growth moderated to 8% in the first quarter after skyrocketing last year.

According to UNCTAD, after a 6% drop in value in 2020, world trade in products will climb 19% in 2021.

Measured in volume, with a fall of 5.3% in 2020, the WTO forecasts that world trade in products will grow 8% in 2021, while the IMF estimate is 8.4 percent.


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