Covid boosts medical goods, software, food exports: WTO


Merchandise trade declines by 8pc; global trade dips 12pc to $22tn
Trade in medical goods registered a growth of 16.3 percent in 2020 compared with 4.7 percent growth in 2019 when the Covid-19 pandemic was just starting.
According to the World Trade Statistical Review 2021, issued by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), exports of medical products, including medicines, medical equipment and PPE, rose by more than 16 percent, underscoring how trade has been a lifeline for access to critical goods through the pandemic, after the initial disruptions.
The share of medical goods in world merchandise trade grew from 5.3 percent in 2019 to 6.6 percent in 2020. Trade in medical goods increased significantly in 2020, with trade in personal protective products growing the most (+47.2 percent). Medicine represented 52 percent of world trade in medical goods in 2020,’ noted the Review, which looks into the latest developments in world trade, with a detailed analysis of the most recent trends for trade in goods and services.
Exports of computer services saw double-digit growth in many economies across various regions in 2020. Rapid growth was recorded in most economies, in marked contrast with declines in other services sectors. Demand for computer services was buoyant, reflecting the shift to remote work and the growth in digital platforms.
Computer services, the fastest growing services sector over the past 10 years, grew by 8 percent in 2020, boosted by a shift towards remote working and increased digitalisation. The US exports of computer software increased by 13 percent in 2020, mostly destined for the EU (22 percent), Canada (12.6 percent), Japan (10.9 percent), the UK (9.1 percent) and Switzerland (6 percent).
Trade in goods and services experienced a deep slump in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic led to merchandise trade declining by 8 percent and trade in commercial services contracting by 21 percent year-on-year in 2020.
The effect of Covid-19 on goods and services differed, with services more severely affected. Services declined by 30 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared with a fall of 23 percent for goods in the same period. While lockdowns led to the cancellation of flights, holidays abroad, restaurant meals, and cultural/ recreational activities, the demand for essential goods held up in all major economies.
World trade in goods and services amounted to US$ 22 trillion in 2020, a 12 percent decline compared with 2019.
According to WTO, exports of food and beverage intermediate goods increased by 16.3 percent in Q4 of 2020 as food supply chains remained resilient and continued to meet demand. Exports of transport equipment saw a slight recovery in Q4 of 2020, increasing by 0.5 percent year-on-year. The automotive sector was severely affected by Covid-19, with a decline in sales and supply chain disruption.