GENEVA-A United Nations report on Wednesday forecast a 7 per cent to 9 per cent year-on-year drop in the value of global trade in 2020, despite signs of a weak rebound in the third quarter led by a re­covery in China.

In the latest quarterly re­port of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Geneva-based trade body estimates world trade to be about 5 per cent less in the third quarter than the same period in 2019, an improve­ment from the 19 per cent year-on-year decline record­ed in the second quarter but still insufficient to pull trade out of the red. Global trade was bouncing back margin­ally in the third quarter, but remains negative except for China, it said. 

Preliminary forecasts put year-on-year growth for the fourth quarter at 3 per cent less. However, the re­port warned of uncertain­ties as how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve and af­fect economic activity in the coming months. The report also highlighted China’s no­table trade recovery, saying that the country’s exports rebounded strongly in the third quarter after falling in the early months, with year-on-year growth rate at al­most 10 per cent.

“In the third quarter, Chi­nese trade statistics have progressively got better. In value, China exports for 2020 are now almost at the same level of the first nine months of 2019,” UNCTAD Economist Alessandro Nicita told Xin­hua in an interview. “If this trend continues, it could very well be that China could reg­ister overall export growth for 2020,” he said.

“Ultimately, for China to contribute to the global economy, it would be im­portant not only to act as a manufacturing hub, but also to contribute more to global demand,” Nicita added. UNC­TAD also warned that no region was spared from the fall in international trade in the second quarter of 2020, saying the sharpest decline was for the West and South Asia regions, where imports dropped by 35 per cent and exports by 41 per cent. 

In its latest World Econom­ic Outlook earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a 2020 global contraction of 4.4 per cent, an improvement over a 5.2 per cent fall predicted in June, when pandemic-relat­ed business closures reached their peak. The global econ­omy will return to growth of 5.2 per cent in 2021, accord­ing to the IMF.