GENEVA: The World Trade Organisation says world merchandise exports rose 2.1 percent to US$18.8 trillion last year. Meanwhile, the value of world commercial services exports rose 5.5 percent to US$4.6 trillion.
At US$900 billion, the growth rate for transport services was two percent last year and has averaged six percent per annum since 2005.
The WTO's 2014 forecast of 4.7 percent growth in world merchandise trade is below the average rate of 5.3 percent for the last 20 years (1993–2013) and also below the pre-crisis average rate of 6.0 percent between 1990 and 2008.
At 6.9 percent, Asia is expected to grow faster than any other region this year followed by North America (4.6 percent), South and Central America (4.4 percent) and Europe (3.3 percent). "Other regions", an aggregate that includes Africa, CIS and the Middle East, are expected to grow 3.1 percent.
The WTO says exports will be supported by rising import demand on the part of developed countries as the US economy gains momentum, and by improving economic conditions in Europe.
"For the last two years trade growth has been sluggish. Looking ahead, if GDP forecasts hold true, we expect a broad-based but modest upturn in 2014, and further consolidation of this growth in 2015," said WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo. "I know that just waiting for an automatic increase in trade will not be enough for WTO Members. We can actively support trade growth by updating the rules and reaching new trade agreements. The deal in Bali last December illustrates this."
The WTO says North America's merchandise exports rose 1.9 percent in 2013 to US$2.42 trillion (12.9 percent of the world total) while imports remained essentially unchanged at US$3.20 trillion (16.9 percent).
South and Central America's exports fell by 1.8 percent to US$737 billion (3.9 percent of world exports) but the region's imports grew by 2.4 percent to US$773 billion (4.1 percent).
European exports rose 4.0 percent to US$6.64 trillion (35.3 percent of the world total), the strongest growth of any region. Meanwhile, Europe's imports recorded a small increase of 1.0 percent to US$6.59 trillion (34.9 percent).
CIS exports declined 2.8 percent to US$778 billion while imports grew by 0.7 percent to US$575 billion in 2013. The region's exports and imports represented 4.1 and 3.0 percent respectively of world trade.
Africa's exports suffered a large decline of 6.3 percent to US$599 billion (3.2 percent of world exports). Meanwhile imports grew a modest 2.2 percent to US$628 billion (3.3 percent).
Middle East exports declined by 1.3 percent to US$1.33 trillion (or 7.1 percent) and the region's imports rose by 4.3 percent to US$770 billion (4.1 percent).
Finally, Asia's exports grew by 2.8 percent to US$6.29 trillion (33.5 percent of the global total) in 2013. Meanwhile, imports grew by 2.1 percent to US$6.37 trillion (33.6 percent).
The top five merchandise exporters were unchanged in 2013 with China No.1 at (US$2.21 trillion, 11.8 percent of world volume); followed by the U.S. (US$1.58 trillion, 8.4 percent); Germany (US$1.45 trillion, 7.7 percent); Japan (US$715 billion, 3.8 percent); and the Netherlands (US$664 billion, 3.5 percent). Japan's exports suffered a sharp decline of 10.5 percent during the year.
The leading importers were the U.S. (US$2.33 trillion or 12.4 percent of the world total); China (US$1.95 trillion, 10.3 percent); Germany (US$1.19 trillion, 6.3 percent); Japan (US$833 billion, 4.4 percent) and France (US$681 billion, 3.6 percent). France replaced the U.K. at number five on the list of leading importers.
The WTO notes the trade picture changes if the European Union is counted as a single entity and intra-EU trade is excluded: Then the EU becomes the largest exporter at US$2.30 trillion or 15.3 percent of world volume, followed by China (14.7 percent), the U.S. (10.5 percent), Japan (4.8 percent) and the Republic of Korea (US$560 billion, 3.7 percent).
On the same basis, the leading importers last year were the United States (15.4 percent), the EU (US$2.23 trillion, 14.8 percent), China (12.9 percent), Japan (5.5 percent), and Hong Kong, China (US$622 billion, 4.1 percent).