3 March 2021
WTO Data Show Above-trend Growth in Goods Trade
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The WTO’s latest quarterly Goods Trade Barometer, released on 18 February 2021, shows above-trend growth that appears to signal a strong rebound in goods trade.

Although the barometer scores 3.9 points above the baseline value of 100, the WTO warns that continued above-trend growth is unlikely to last in the first half of 2021, and emphasizes that the world remains in a period of high uncertainty.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published its quarterly Goods Trade Barometer. The release shows above-trend growth that appears to signal a strong rebound in goods trade, but the Organization warns that the momentum is unlikely to last in the first half of 2021.

The 18 February 2021 release notes that the pace of expansion seen in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020 “may be short-lived.” While the overall goods trade barometer score of 103.9 is well-above the baseline value of 100, the barometer is a composite index comprised of six goods trade drivers. Several of the indicators on which the barometer relies, such as the indices for export orders and automotive products, appear to have already peaked, according to the release.

While the strong barometer implies that the overall 2020 decline in goods trade may be less severe than previously forecast, the WTO underscores that the appearance and spread of COVID-19 variants stand to negatively impact goods trade in early 2021, and that prospects for the coming quarters are “increasingly uncertain.” In its trade forecast from 6 October 2020, the WTO noted that a 9.2% drop in world merchandise trade was expected for 2020, followed by a 7.2% increase in 2021 (SDG Knowledge Hub coverage on this is available here).

Alongside the Goods Trade Barometer, the WTO also releases a Services Trade Barometer twice per year. The trade barometers are normalized for medium-term trends, with a score of 100 indicating growth in line with medium-term trends. Additional information on the trade barometers’ methodology is available in previous SDG Knowledge Hub coverage. The WTO is due to launch its next trade forecast in mid-April. [WTO Goods Trade Barometer, 18 February 2021] [WTO News Release]

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