Trade and Investment

World merchandise trade rebound, and other global trade stories to read this month

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The volume of global merchandise trade is projected to grow 2.6% this year. Image: Bernd Dittrich/Unsplash

Matthew Stephenson
Head, Investment and Services, World Economic Forum
  • This monthly roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on global trade.
  • Top international trade stories: Global trade expected to rebound in 2024; EU-US trade meeting takes place; Luxury good exports surpass agriculture in France.

1. Promising rebound in global trade expected for 2024

Global trade will rebound in 2024, with a projected 2.6% growth in the volume of merchandise trade this year and an even more robust 3.3% in 2025, economists predict.

World commercial services trade grew 9% in 2023, according to the Global Trade Outlook and Statistics report, published by the World Trade Organization (WTO). This was largely a result of recovering international travel and the booming demand for digitally delivered services, it said.

WTO press conference with Chief Economist Ralph Ossa, 10 April 2024.
WTO press conference with Chief Economist Ralph Ossa, 10 April 2024. Image: WTO

Another significant factor behind trade growth is the amount of sporting events to be held in Europe in the summer, the report noted. The easing of visa requirements by various countries and the boost in tourism and passenger transport services sectors are said to be playing a part in this uplift.

However, risks to the forecast include geopolitical tensions, policy uncertainty and a rise in protectionism, the WTO said.

2. EU-US trade meeting focuses on technology and semiconductor supply chains

The EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) held its 6th meeting in Belgium, with officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis in attendance.

Established in 2021 as a platform for cooperation between the EU and US, the TTC aims to grow bilateral trade, avoid trade barriers and coordinate on technology and supply chain issues.

New partnerships on AI and 6G networks were announced at the meeting, along with plans for increased cooperation on semiconductor supply chains, according to a joint statement. This included measures to address concerns about unfair trade practices.

The TTC is also tasked with accelerating the transition to climate-neutral economies, though progress on sustainable trade initiatives has been limited.

A graphic showing EU trade in goods with United States from 2013-2023.
EU trade in goods with United States from 2013-2023. Image: Eurostat

While it has few major policy achievements, the TCC is seen as an important vehicle to collaborate between these trade partners. The US accounted for almost one-fifth of EU exports in 2023, and imported 13.7% of goods into the EU in the same year, according to Eurostat, making it the bloc’s second-largest importer.

Looking ahead, a change in US leadership could result in new tariffs or trade restrictions, which will be a key consideration for the TTC. The Council says it aims to shape dialogue and promote greater EU-US cooperation on technology, supply chains and sustainable trade, as both sides prepare for upcoming elections.


What is the World Economic Forum doing on trade facilitation?

3. News in brief: Trade stories from around the world

Global sales of handbags and perfumes by Paris-based luxury goods manufacturer LVMH now account for a larger share of France’s exports than all of the Camembert and wine produced by the country’s agricultural sector. The manufacturer was responsible for 4% of French exports in 2023, according to a study by consultancy Asterès for LVMH, as reported by the FT.

European ports are increasingly filling up with imported vehicles as automotive manufacturers and distributors struggle with a combination of a slowdown in sales and logistical bottlenecks due to a lack of available lorry drivers, the Financial Times reports. They have been referred to as “car parks”, with some port operators asking importers to provide proof of onward transport to prevent the situation continuing.

Work to clear the wreckage of the Baltimore bridge collapse from a cargo ship that crashed into it and gain back access to Baltimore Port’s shipping channel continues. Replacing the bridge itself is expected to take years. Meanwhile, the FBI has opened a criminal inquiry, as the body of a fourth victim was recovered.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed economic partnership agreements with both Colombia and Costa Rica, Reuters reports. Speaking about the agreement with Colombia, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said he anticipated "a new era of cooperation and mutual economic growth”. It is expected to help enhance bilateral trade flows by cutting tariffs, removing trade barriers and boosting investments in sectors including energy, tourism and infrastructure.

4. More on trade from Agenda

The US Inflation Reduction Act has sparked a global uptick in industrial policies aimed at rapidly building domestic clean energy supply chains to tackle climate change. Find out more about the global domino effect of the Act here.

Asia has been called the “garment factory of the world”, and with an estimated 42 million women working in Asian garment supply chains, the industry is a key entry point for them to enter the formal workplace. Here are five ways we can achieve equality in Asia's garment supply chains to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals on gender.

A graphic showing the share of women in Asia's total garment employment
Share of women in Asia's total garment employment. Image: Isostat

Frontier markets can be widely misunderstood, which can impact market participants’ decisions about whether to invest in their economies, says Lisa Satolli, Project Lead, Humanitarian and Resilience Investing at World Economic Forum. Here, she outlines some surprising facts.

1. Promising rebound in global trade expected for 20242. EU-US trade meeting focuses on technology and semiconductor supply chains3. News in brief: Trade stories from around the world4. More on trade from Agenda

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