Global trade value reaches record high, but threats remain

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New figures from UNCTAD show Q1 2022 saw the highest global trade volume on record, driven largely by higher prices for energy and other key commodities.


The value of global trade reached a record high of $7.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, new figures have revealed. However, much of this is due to increases in commodity prices rather than volume of goods traded, while several threats remain for the months ahead.

This is according to new figures from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which noted this was an increase of around $1 trillion year-on-year and a $250 billion increase from the final three months of 2021.

It highlighted the war in Ukraine as a major influence on global trade figures, largely due to the increases in prices it has caused.

However, the report warned that issues such as rising interest rates and the winding down of pandemic-related economic stimulus packages in the coming months are likely to have a negative impact on trade volumes for the rest of the year, while continued volatility in commodity prices and geopolitical factors will also make the future trade outlook uncertain.

Overall, every region of the world saw a storing increase in trade growth in Q1 2022, though performance was weaker than average in the East Asia and Pacific regions. While high fuel prices meant the energy sector performed especially strongly, metals and chemicals also experienced above average increases.

By contrast, trade in the transportation sector and communication equipment remained below levels recorded last year and in 2019.

"The war in Ukraine is affecting international trade by putting further upward pressure on the international prices of energy and primary commodities," the report stated. 

"In the short term, because of the inelastic global demand for food and energy products, rising food and energy prices would likely result in higher trade values, and marginally lower trade volumes," UNCTAD added.

The report also highlighted continuing global supply chain issues, a trend towards regionalization and the implementation of policies to support the transition to a greener global economy as other factors that are likely to influence global trade sentiment for the rest of 2022.