Global Trade Slowing Down

Global trade volumes are slowing down, according to the latest update of global freight data collected by the International Transport Forum at the OECD.

The overall picture for global freight movement shows no improvement since the previous brief. Total external trade by sea (in tonnes) has remained stagnant below pre-crisis levels in EU27 and the United States (-2% and -10%), according to seasonally adjusted preliminary estimates of goods carried until August 2012.

Exports and imports by sea display different patterns. Total exports remain above pre-crisis levels (USA 8%; EU27 23%) although exports to Asia show signs of slowing down. Total imports have stagnated below pre-crisis levels.

Air freight tonnes, considered a lead indicator, show further decline since the previous quarter. USA total external trade by air fell to below pre-crisis levels, with exports at 4% above and imports at 5% below the pre-crisis peak. EU27 exports fell to 6% below the pre-crisis peak, while imports fell below the pre-crisis level for the first time since the recovery in Q1/10. This reflects the on-going economic hardship faced by many European economies and overall weakening conditions globally. However, considering values instead of freight tonnes transported produces a more mitigated picture.

China continues to show resilience with external trade by sea and air (measured in values) reaching 38% and 34% above the pre-crisis peak, although growth levelled off over the last year. Overall external trade for both modes showed spectacular recovery through August 2011, with import growth outpacing export growth considerably. This reflects rising domestic consumption and the gloomy global economic situation reducing external demand for Chinese goods.

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