Global trade growth predicted to slump to its lowest level in seven years
Global trade will grow at its weakest pace this year since 2009, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with slowing economies in the US and developing nations to blame.
The organisation dramatically downgraded its trade growth forecast for this year to just 1.7%, which is well below its April forecast of 2.8%.
The Geneva-based body also warned that the slowdown was "serious" and should serve as a "wake-up call".
The intervention came just days after the Paris-based OECD warned that weak global trade was "of particular concern".
Next year's estimates have also been revised down. The WTO expects growth of between 1.8% and 3.1%, down from 3.6% previously.
"With expected global GDP growth of 2.2% in 2016, this year would mark the slowest pace of trade and output growth since the financial crisis of 2009," the WTO said, adding that the downgrade followed a sharper than expected decline in merchandise trade volumes in the first three months of this year and a smaller than anticipated rebound in the second quarter.
The organisation explained that the contraction was driven by slowing GDP and trade growth in developing economies such as China and Brazil but also in north America.
"The dramatic slowing of trade growth is serious and should serve as a wake-up call," said WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo.
"(The figures are) particularly concerning in the context of growing anti-globalisation sentiment.
"We need to make sure that this does not translate into misguided policies that could make the situation much worse, not only from the perspective of trade, but also for job creation and economic growth and development, which are so closely linked to an open trading system."
A spokesman for the WTO said if the current projections hold true, it will be the first time in 15 years that the ratio between trade growth and world GDP has fallen below 1:1.
The data underlined pressing concerns that, after a long period of growth through globalisation and accelerating reliance on global trade, governments are increasingly seeking to protect their own industries and promote domestic producers at the expense of their foreign competitors.