World trade is expected to fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world, the World Trade Organization said in its annual trade report and outlook.
WTO economists believe the decline will likely exceed the trade slump brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008.
Trade volume had already dropped by 0.1% in 2019 as a result of tariffs and a slowing economic growth.
The organization said that nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes in 2020, with exports from North America and Asia hit hardest, warning that trade will likely fall steeper in sectors with complex value chains, particularly electronics and automotive products.
WTO added trade volume could recover in 2021 but uncertainty remains as it will depend largely on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.
"The unavoidable declines in trade and output will have painful consequences for households and businesses, on top of the human suffering caused by the disease itself. These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that. But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible. Decisions taken now will determine the future shape of the recovery and global growth prospects,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said as he urged countries to work together.