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Global trade faces a stagnant decade lagging the world economy

International trade will grow more slowly than the global economy over most of the next decade as the war in Ukraine reshapes strategic alliances and alters the flow of cross-border commerce, a new report says.

World trade’s annual expansion rate will average 2.3% through 2031, compared with an increase in global gross domestic product of 2.5% on average each year over the same period, according to forecasts from Boston Consulting Group.

Trade largely tracked the growth rate of world GDP during the decade preceding the pandemic. So the report predicts the worst stretch of stagnant globalisation since the World Trade Organisation was established more than a quarter century ago.

“After nearly 30 years of a comparatively secure trade environment, we are in the midst of a new East versus West dynamic, with a US- and EU-led community and a China-Russia counterpart, along with the potential emergence of a third grouping of non-aligned nations,” said Nikolaus Lang, a BCG managing director and a co-author of the report.

Under the shakeout outlined by BCG, the next nine years of trade upheaval will create the following winners and losers:

  • The European Union will boost its trade with the US by $338 billion, driven largely by American energy exports to Europe, and will also expand its combined trade with Asean countries, Africa, the Middle East and India.
  • Trade between the US and China will drop by $63 billion.
  • Between the EU and China, trade growth will also decelerate, growing by just $72 billion, which BCG called “a modest increase compared with previous years.”
  • Russia’s trade with China and India will grow by $110 billion, “including $90 billion with China alone” the consultancy said.
  • Southeast Asia will be the main winner, with an estimated $1 trillion in new trade tied largely to new commerce with China, Japan, the US, and the EU.
  • Asean trade with China will grow by $438 billion, the largest interregional advance.

© 2023 Bloomberg


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