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Pacific Islands

CoViD-19 trade decline smaller for Asia Pacific region

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Source: WTO Secretariat for trade, consensus estimates for GDP. See footnote below.

COVID-19 is likely to have less impact on world trade in the Asia Pacific region than elsewhere in 2020.

The Asian region (including Pacific Island countries) is forecast to have a smaller decline in world trade than other regions amid CoViD-19 in 2020, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Exports to the Asia region are expected to go down by 4.5% and imports down by 4.4% (see above chart).

This is much better than other regions such as North America and Europe where trade is forecast to decline by 14.7% and 11.7% for exports and 8.7% and 10.3% for imports respectively.

The WTO also forecasts a 9.2% decline in world merchandise trade volume for 2020, followed by an increase of 7.2% in 2021 (still well below the pre-crisis trend).

Trade performance this year depends on the nature of the pandemic and the government policies used to combat it. 

The months of June and July recorded strong trade performances, including growth in CoViD-19 related products, as lockdowns were eased and economic activity accelerated, bringing signs of optimism for overall trade growth this year.

While world trade shows signs of bouncing back from a deep, COVID-19 induced slump, WTO economists caution that any recovery could be disrupted by the ongoing pandemic effects. 

WTO Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun said the incidence of COVID-19 worldwide has fallen from its peak in the spring, but it remains stubbornly high in many areas.

“Trade has played a critical role in responding to the pandemic, allowing countries to secure access to vital food and medical supplies.”

“Trade has also facilitated new ways of working during the crisis through the provision of traded IT products and services.”

“One of the greatest risks for the global economy in the aftermath of the pandemic would be a descent into protectionism. International cooperation is essential as we move forward, and the WTO is the ideal forum to resolve any outstanding trade issues stemming from the crisis."

Gross Domestic Product

Meanwhile, the Asian region is also estimated to have the smallest decline in GDP at -2.4% in 2020. Overall, the decline in world market-weighted GDP in 2020 is estimated at -4.8%.

In 2021, GDP growth is expected to increase by 4.9%, depending on policies and the pandemic.

Footnote for Table above:

  • a  Figures for 2020 and 2021 are projections.
  • b  Average of exports and imports.  
  • c  Other regions comprise Africa, Middle East and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including associate and former member States.