Mounting trade tensions, an increase in trade-restrictive measures and continuing economic uncertainty created real challenges for world trade in 2018, with trade projected to grow by just 2.6 per cent this year, according to the 2019 World Trade Organisation (WTO) report.
"These factors and a deceleration in overall economic activity slowed momentum in global trade, restricting merchandise trade growth to 3 per cent compared with 4.6 per cent in 2017," WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo was quoted as saying in a foreword message by Emirates news agency Wam.
"This downward trend is expected to continue in 2019, with trade projected to grow by just 2.6 per cent. If trade growth is to bounce back in 2020, it is vital we resolve tensions and create an environment where trade can play its full part in driving economic growth and reducing poverty," he added.
To chart a positive path forward for world trade, he continued, WTO members are discussing ways to strengthen the trading system to enable it to better respond to the challenges of today’s economy, including rapid technological change which is creating huge shifts in patterns of employment.
"In 2018, work continued to advance negotiations in a number of areas, including agriculture and fisheries subsidies," he indicated.
"Groups of WTO members are also discussing so-called joint initiatives, which include electronic commerce, small and medium-sized enterprises, facilitation of investments, and the economic empowerment of women. While not all members are participating, these talks are open to everyone and are gaining momentum."
"In the area of e-commerce, for example, over 70 WTO members confirmed in January their intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects," he said.
"By the end of 2018, over 80 per cent of WTO members had ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which is projected to slash trade costs by 14 per cent once fully implemented, and many have already seen the benefits of a faster flow of goods across borders."
"As we move into 2019, the global trading system continues to face significant challenges. There is an urgent need to ease trade tensions, resolve systemic issues and further modernise our rulebook. By doing so, we can ensure that the WTO continues to provide stability and predictability for trading nations large and small, thereby supporting growth, development and job creation around the world," he concluded.
The 2019 Annual Report provides a comprehensive account of the WTO's activities in 2018 and early 2019 and gives a brief overview of the past year followed by in-depth accounts of the WTO's main areas of major events and activities over the past 12 months.