Asian exports and pandemic demand fuel record global trade rebound – dpa international


The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for  a time the world's tallest building

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for a time the world’s tallest building (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Global trade enjoyed a record rebound in the first quarter of 2021, according to UN estimates, growing 10 per cent year-on-year largely on the back of booming exports from East Asia.

Countries in the region thrived after “early success in pandemic mitigation,” which “allowed them to rebound faster and to capitalize on booming global demand for Covid-19 related products,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report published on Wednesday.

China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam have been among the nations reporting relatively low virus-related death tolls and surging exports.

Health care products, digital services and “home office” equipment were in high demand last year, UNCTAD said, though international travel and hospitality services lagged.

“Consumer behaviour has substantially changed,” UNCTAD said, warning that “some of this may be enduring.”

Pandemic tensions led to “substantial uncertainty” related to trade, prompting some manufacturers and governments to try “shift production closer to consumers.”

While German vaccine pioneers BioNTech this month it would build a factory in Singapore, recent months have seen producer countries accused of hoarding jabs, after earlier in the pandemic others were fingered for allegedly monopolizing medical and protective equipment.

While the world economy contracted by over 4 per cent in 2020 as the pandemic and restrictions hampered major economies, trade regained lost ground and by early 2021 was “higher than pre-crisis levels.”

UNCTAD expects goods trade to keep growing this year, but is less optimistic about services sectors such as tourism. Many borders have been closed since March last year, particularly across Asia, where several countries, such as India and Malaysia, are reporting record pandemic numbers.

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