Global trade growth is expected to plummet by up to a third in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organisation said on Wednesday, warning that the numbers would be "ugly".
"World trade is expected to fall by between 13 percentand 32 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts normal economicactivity and life around the world," the WTO said in a statement.
There were a wide range of possibilities for how trade wouldbe hit by the "unprecedented" health crisis, it added.
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 outthat trade had already been slowing in 2019, before the emergence of the novelcoronavirus.
But the virus has now infected some 1.4 million people sincelate last year, killing more than 80,000 and forcing governments across theworld to take radical measures.
More than half of humanity has been asked to stay at homeand economic activity has ground to a virtual standstill in many places.
Global trade, already hit by trade tensions anduncertainties around Brexit, is expected to register "double-digitdeclines in trade volumes" in nearly all regions this year, the WTO said.
"This crisis is first and foremost a health crisiswhich has forced governments to take unprecedented measures to protect people'slives," Azevedo said in a statement.
"The unavoidable declines in trade and output will havepainful consequences for households and businesses, on top of the humansuffering caused by the disease itself," he said.
Before the current crisis, trade tensions, uncertainty andslowing economic growth weighed on global merchandise trade, which registered aslight decline of 0.1 per cent in 2019 after rising 2.9 per cent a yearearlier.
The dollar value of world merchandise exports fell by threeper cent to USD 8.89 trillion, the WTO said.
World commercial services trade fared better last year, withexports in dollar terms rising by two percent to $6.03 trillion, but theexpansion was far slower than in 2018, when services trade increased by ninepercent, said the WTO.Butthe situation has taken a dramatic turn since the new coronavirus first emergedin China late last year.