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Trade likely to plunge up to a third worldwide

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WTO chief Roberto Azevedo gave the warning during a virtual news conference. AFP

Trade likely to plunge up to a third worldwide

Global trade growth is expected to plummet by up to a third in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Wednesday, warning that the numbers would be “ugly”.

“World trade is expected to fall by between 13 per cent and 32 per cent in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world,” the WTO said in a statement.

There were a wide range of possibilities for how trade would be hit by the “unprecedented” health crisis, it said.

However, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo warned the downturn “may well be the deepest economic recession or downturn of our lifetimes”.

In its main annual forecast, the 164-member WTO pointed out that trade had already been slowing in 2019, before the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

But the virus has now infected some 1.4 million people since late last year, killing more than 80,000 and forcing governments across the world to take radical measures.

More than half of humanity has been asked to stay at home and economic activity has ground to a virtual standstill in many places.

Global trade, already hit by trade tensions and uncertainties around Brexit, is expected to register “double-digit declines in trade volumes” in nearly all regions this year, the WTO said.

“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,” Azevedo said in a statement. AFP

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