The World Trade Organization has forecast world trade will grow 2.8% this year, a downward revision that reflects declining import demand in China, Brazil, and other emerging economies and falling commodities prices.
If the WTO’s latest forecast is realized, 2015 will mark the fourth consecutive year in which annual trade growth has fallen below 3%, half the annual average from 1990 to 2008 before the financial crisis hit. In April, the organization predicted trade growth of 3.3% this year.
“Global output is still expanding at a moderate pace but risks to the world economy are increasingly on the downside,” the WTO warned in a news release. “These include a sharper-than-expected slowdown in emerging and developing economies, the possibility of destabilizing financial flows from an eventual interest rate rise by the U.S. Federal Reserve, and unanticipated costs associated with the migration crisis in Europe.”
At the time of the April forecast, the WTO noted, world trade and output appeared to be strengthening based on available data through the fourth quarter of 2014, but results for the first half of 2015 were below expectations as quarterly growth turned negative, averaging -0.7% in Q1 and Q2.
The Chinese slowdown caused the WTO to cut its 2015 forecast for growth in Asian imports to 2.6%, down from a 5.1% projection in April, and Asian exports to 3.1% from the previous 5.0% forecast.
Brazil’s merchandise imports in the second quarter, meanwhile, were down 13% year-on-year compared to the same period in 2014. The country has been hit by a fiscal crisis, a financial scandal involving the Petrobras oil company, and falling export prices.
In 2016, world trade is expected to grow by 3.9%, a revision of the WTO’s previous forecast of 4.0%. The improvement is based on Asian import growth bouncing back to 4.3%, as well as Latin America switching from a 5.6% import contraction this year to 5.7% growth in 2016.
But according to Reuters, the WTO’s “expectations have repeatedly proved overly optimistic as hopes of global economic recovery have receded.”