WTO cuts 2012 world trade-growth forecast to 2.5% from 3.7%

The World Trade Organization (WTO) cut its forecast for commerce growth this year to 2.5 percent as the euro-region debt crisis drags down the global economy and the U.S. slows, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said.

The WTO, based in Geneva, scaled back the forecast five months after predicting that trade in manufactured goods would expand 3.7 percent this year. International commerce grew a less-than-expected 5 percent in 2011. The WTO also lowered its forecast for trade growth in 2013 to 4.5 percent from 5.6 percent.

“The main reason for growth slowing down is, of course, Europe,” Lamy said in Singapore today. “We also know the U.S. is lower than expected, Japan is not in great shape.”

Europe’s crisis, now in its third year, has scuppered the WTO’s hopes for an export-led recovery and threatens to kindle efforts by governments to protect their domestic industries by imposing trade-restrictive measures. Global commerce gained 0.3 percent in the second quarter from the first or 1.2 percent at an annualized rate.

The WTO calculates intra-European trade as international commerce, “so if Europe slows down more than the rest, intra- European trade, which is a big quantity, 30, 35 percent of international trading volume, has a big impact on the numbers,” Lamy told reporters.

China, Japan

Signs also suggest growth is easing in emerging markets that have been driving global expansion. China, the world’s largest exporter of goods, said shipments abroad rose 7.1 percent in the first eight months, putting the nation at risk of missing a goal for 10 percent expansion of trade this year. Japan’s exports fell 5.8 percent in August from a year earlier.

The WTO said today that it sees global gross domestic product rising 2.1 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2013. Developing economies and those in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which comprises the former Soviet States except for the three Baltic Republics and Georgia, will pace that expansion, with 4.9 percent growth this year and 5.2 percent next year, according to the WTO.

The International Monetary Fund predicted in July that the world economy would grow 3.5 percent in 2012 and 3.9 percent in 2013. The IMF will reduce its forecasts “by a few decimal points” on Oct. 9, an assistant director in the fund’s Asia and Pacific Department said on Sept. 20.

Bloomberg News

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