The World Trade Organisation has cut its trade forecast for global growth this year, from 2.8 to 1.7 per cent. This new figure signifies the slowest pace for trade and output growth since the 2009 financial crisis. Furthermore, it is the first time in 15 years that international commerce has been left trailing behind the world economy. Many analysts argue that this reflects the slowdown of China and Brazil in addition to the lower levels of imports into the United States. Additionally, some attribute the sluggish international trade to the wider lacklustre global economic performance that has prevailed since the financial crisis. Although trade has grown 1.5 times faster than GDP over the long term, the WTO predicts that it will only grow 80 per cent as fast this year.
WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo has voiced his concerns about the slowing of trade growth in the context of increasingly prevalent anti-globalisation sentiment. He stated, “We need to make sure that this does not translate into misguided policies that could make the situation much worse – not only from the perspective of trade, but also for job creation and economic growth and development, which are so closely linked to an open trading system.” The WTO’s publication lists a variety of possible factors that have caused the weakness in economic activity. Two of them relate to government trade policy: the absence of further trade liberalisation and “creeping protectionism”. Resisting calls for protecting industries against competition from imports is unlikely to happen in the current political environment where there is widely reported backlash against globalisation.