High energy prices and semiconductor-related product demand helped world trade mark first rise in three years: JETRO

Kyodo

Global trade in 2017 grew 10.5 percent from the previous year to $17.32 trillion, marking the first rise in three years due to higher energy prices and robust demand for semiconductor-related products, according to a report by a Japan trade body released Monday.

The world’s trade value marked double-digit growth for the first time since 2011, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government-supported entity, said in its 2018 report on trade and investment.

The growth, measured in the value of exports, came despite concerns about rising protectionism that has cast a shadow over the global economic outlook since the January 2017 inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who advocates an “America First” agenda.

By country, China saw a 7.8 percent increase in exports from the previous year to $2.26 trillion, while the United States ranked second with a 6.6 percent rise to $1.55 trillion.

Japan’s trade balance remained in the black for the second straight year, helped by increased shipments of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment to China and construction machinery to the United States.

The country registered an 8.2 percent rise in exports to $697.2 billion and a 10.5 percent increase in imports to $671.0 billion

Still, JETRO pointed out downside risks to global trade this year amid tit-for-tat trade restrictions, such as steeper tariffs.

Concerns about a trade war between China and the U.S. remain, and the prospect of higher auto tariffs being imposed by Washington has unnerved investors.

“If the Trump administration expands the size of its trade restrictive measures, it will have a serious impact (on global trade),” JETRO Chairman Hiroyuki Ishige said at a news conference.

As Japan and the EU signed a free trade agreement in July, one of the world’s largest bilateral FTAs, in the annual report JETRO expressed hope for reduced tariffs given that Japan pays an estimated $2.6 billion in duties on exports to the bloc each year.