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  • World merchandise trade appears to have rebounded strongly after plummeting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether growth can be sustained going forward is unclear, according to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) latest Goods Trade Barometer. A sharp rise in the barometer index was driven by a surge in export orders, but mixed readings in other components and the resurgence of COVID-19 could weigh on trade in the coming months.

    The Goods Trade Barometer’s current reading of 100.7 marks a dramatic improvement from the 84.5 recorded last August, which reflected collapsing trade and output in the second quarter as lockdowns and travel restrictions were employed to fight the virus. The latest reading indicates a strong rebound in trade in the third quarter as lockdowns were eased, but growth is likely to slow in the fourth quarter as pent-up demand is exhausted and inventory restocking is completed.

    Trade-related uncertainty remains high. A second wave of COVID-19 infection is already under way in Europe and North America, leading to renewed lockdowns that could trigger another round of business closures and financial distress. On a more positive note, progress has been reported in the development of a vaccine, but when and how it might be deployed is not yet known.

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